Vera Volkova


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(b St Petersburg, 7 Jun. 1904; d Copenhagen, 5 May 1975)

Russian dancer and teacher. A late starter to ballet training, she studied with Vaganova and Maria Romanova (Galina Ulanova's mother) at Volynsky's private Russian Choreographic School (1920–5). She danced with the GATOB (later the Kirov) from 1925 to 1929 and then toured Japan and China with a small ensemble. In 1929, hoping to join Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, she defected in Shanghai, but upon hearing of Diaghilev's death she opted to remain in China. There she danced with Georgi Goncharov's Russian ballet company and taught in his school. In 1932 she founded her own school in Hong Kong. In 1936 she and her husband, the architect Hugh Finch Williams, moved to London where she opened another ballet school and taught at the Sadler's Wells Ballet and its school (1943–50). She eventually became the leading Western authority on the Vaganova teaching method and her teaching had a significant influence on a generation of British dancers, including Fonteyn. In 1950 she went to La Scala, Milan, as teacher and artistic adviser, and the following year went to Copenhagen, where she became a permanent teacher and artistic adviser to the Royal Danish Ballet (1952–75), doing much to improve standards and restore the company's international reputation. Among her students in Copenhagen were Erik Bruhn, Peter Martins, and Peter Schaufuss. She also worked as a guest teacher for various companies, including Kurt Jooss's Folkwang Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Harkness Ballet. Knight of Order of Dannebrog (1956).

Subjects: Dance.

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