Vera Zorina


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(orig. Eva Brigitta Hartwig; b Berlin, 2 Jan. 1917; d 9 Apr. 2003)

German-US dancer and actress. She studied dance with Tatiana and Victor Gsovsky in Berlin, making her stage debut at the age of 13 as a fairy in Max Reinhardt's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (1930). She went to London in 1933 where she studied with Nikolai Legat and Marie Rambert. That same year she partnered Anton Dolin in the West End staging of Ballerina, a play by Lady Eleanor Smith with ballet interludes choreographed by Dolin. This led to an invitation to join de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo (1934–6), which is where Zorina acquired her stage name. In 1937 her performance as the temperamental Russian ballerina in the London staging of On Your Toes, brought her to the attention of US film and theatre producers. In 1938 she made her debut on Broadway dancing in I Married an Angel (1938) and Louisiana Purchase (1940), both of which were choreographed by Balanchine. She also signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which led to her performing in a string of film musicals, including The Goldwyn Follies (1938), On Your Toes (1939), I Was an Adventuress (1940), Louisiana Purchase (1941), Star Spangled Rhythm (1942), Follow the Boys (1944), and Lover Come Back (1946). During this period (1938–46) she was married to Balanchine who choreographed much of her dance material, and her extensive appearances did much to popularize ballet in the US. After her Hollywood contract expired, Zorina returned to the ballet stage, as a guest artist with Ballet Theatre (1943), but did not have much success. She did however make a new career as a narrator-performer of dramatic oratorios, including Honegger's Joan of Arc at the Stake (1948), Stravinsky's Persephone (1955), and Debussy's Le Martyre de Saint-Sébastien. She later worked as an opera director for the Santa Fe Opera, the New York City Opera, and the Norwegian Opera. She published her autobiography, Zorina, in New York in 1986.

Subjects: Dance — Music.

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