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Igor Youskevitch

(1912—1994)


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(b Piriatin or Pieyatin, Ukraine, 13 Mar. 1912; d New York, 13 Jun. 1994)

Russian-US dancer and teacher. He left Russia aged 8 and was brought up in Belgrade where he studied engineering and additionally trained as a gymnast. In 1932 he competed in the Olympic Games and also began studying ballet with Xenia Grunt, who chose him as her stage partner. Further studies were with Preobrajenska in Paris and Anatole Vilzak and Alexandra Fedorova in New York. He made his debut as a professional dancer in 1934, dancing with the Ballets Russes de Paris, then with Woizikowsky's company (1935–6) and de Basil's Ballets Russes Australian tour (1936–7) and European tour (1937–8). From 1938 to 1944 he was a principal dancer with Serge Denham's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, where he created roles in Massine's Gaîté parisienne (1938), Seventh Symphony (1938), Bogatyri (1938), Rouge et noir (1939), Vienna 1814 (1940), and The New Yorker (1940), in Nijinska's The Snow Maiden (1942), and Ancient Russia (1943), and Igor Schwezoff's The Red Poppy (1943). After war service with the US Navy, he danced with Massine's Ballet Russe Highlights in 1946 before joining (American) Ballet Theatre, the company that was his home for the next nine years. At ABT he created roles in Balanchine's Theme and Variations (1947), Tudor's Shadow of the Wind (1948), and Nijinska's Schumann Concerto (1951). A distinguished and elegant stylist, with a romantic stage presence, he excelled in the 19th-century classics, especially renowned as Albrecht in Giselle. He made frequent guest appearances with Alicia Alonso, performing with her company in Cuba (later the National Ballet of Cuba) from its beginning in 1948 until 1960, and creating the role of Romeo in Albert Alonso's 1956 staging of Romeo and Juliet in Havana. From 1955 to 1957 he returned to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as principal dancer and artistic adviser. He retired from the stage in 1962. With his wife, the dancer Anna Scarpova, he ran a school in Long Island, New York (1962–80), which also served as the base for his touring company, Ballet Romantique. From 1983 until his death he was artistic director of the New York International Ballet Competition. He appeared in Gene Kelly's 1956 film Invitation to the Dance. He was one of the most significant male dancers of 20th-century American ballet, and provided inspiration to many who followed including Erik Bruhn.

Subjects: Dance.


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