ANNA PAVLOVA   1881-1931

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"Portrait of Anna Pavlova"
Author Rinat Kuramshin

Anna Pavlovna Pavlova (1881-1931) is one of the greatest ballerinas of the XX century, who has glorified the Russian ballet art all over the world. Pavlova’s name became legendary during the life of the ballerina. The choreographic miniature the «Dying Swan» performed by her is the high standard of the Russian ballet school.

Immediately after graduating from the Imperial Theatre School, Pavlova was hired by the Mariinsky theatre and soon became a prima. Anna Pavlova debuted in the «Daughter of Pharaoh» ballet to the music of Caesar Puni staged by Saint-Georges and Petipa. A collaboration with choreographers A. Gorsky and Mikhail Fokine had a great influence on her work. In 1909, Pavlova for the first time staged her independent performance at the Suvorin theater in St. Petersburg. She chose the «Night» by Rubinstein for her debute.

Anna Pavlova was one of the main participants of Sergei Diagilev’s «Russian Seasons». A poster painted by Serov depicting Pavlova standing still in Arabesque became one of the emblems of the «Russian Seasons». It was she who suggested that Diaghilev should include ballet into the opera season. For Diaghilev, Pavlova’s participation in his enterprise was a guarantee of success. Although she did not work long with Diagilev, Diaghilev’s ballet is still associated with the names of Pavlova and Nijinsky all over the world. There was a lot of things she did not like in Diagilev’s enterprise. Pavlova would often said that the beauty of dance meant everything to her, and ugliness meant nothing, and she strongly rejected everything that seemed ugly to her. This list included plastic elements from the new choreography. Also, Stravinsky’s music from the «Firebird» seemed not melodic enough to her. Pavlova, the great classical ballerina, did not adopt aesthetics of the innovative choreographers who came to Diagilev’s «Russian Ballets» with Fokin and revolutionized the world of dance. After the first Russian Season in Paris Pavlova left Diagilev’s troupe for various reasons.

In 1910, she created her own ballet company in London and they went on a round-the-world ballet tour performing in more than 40 countries and presenting the art of ballet for the first time in many of them. Mikhail Mordkin was Anna Pavlova’s companion during this tour, a famous soloist of the Bolshoi Theater, the «Heracles of the ballet scene», later on – the founder of the American ballet. He danced with Pavlova in 1910-1911 after she had left Diagilev.

Anna Pavlova's Poster

A. Pavlova
and M. Mordkin

Photo. Anna Pavlova

in the image of a dying swan

Photo. Victoria Palace Theater in London

Photo. House of Anna Pavlova in London

In August 1911, Pavlova agreed to dance the title part in the «Giselle» on tour with the Russian ballet in London. Pavlova replaced Karsavina in the «Giselle» and danced with Nijinsky with whom she was the first to dance the slave in «Cleopatra». In November 1911, she went on tour over the cities of England, Scotland and Ireland. Having decided to settle in Great Britain, Anna Palova bought a house (Ivy House) in Hampstead, London.

Anna Pavlova had an active touring life for 22 years. During this period, she took part in nine thousand performances, dancing main parts in two-thirds of them. Moving from city to city, the ballerina has travelled at least 500 thousand kilometers by train. She loved to learn local dance traditions in each country. Then she included them in her ballets. Anna Pavlova’s ballet troupe was the only one that had oriental motifs, African and Indian movements in their repertoire. A. Pavlova was an active philanthropist. During World War I, wherever she went on tour, she performed for the Red Cross. Pavlova sent parcels to students of the St. Petersburg ballet school, transferred large sums of money to people starving in the Volga region and arranged charity performances. She organized a shelter in Paris and housed 15 Russian girls there. She also maintained her own ballet school, where she taught children free of charge.

For a long time, Anna Pavlova had personal relations with Baron Victor Dandre, a representative of an ancient French family. Since 1912, Victor Dandre lived in London, was Pavlova’s impresario and head of the troupe.

January 17, 1931 Pavlova arrived in the Hague (Netherlands). However, on January 20, the scheduled performance did not take place because of her illness. On January 23 Anna Pavlova died of pleurisy. Her body was cremated. The ashes are kept in London.

International prizes and awards are named after Anna Pavlova. Her repertoire is being danced by prima ballerinas all over the world. Pavlova was the first ballerina who saw a memorial dedicated to her during her life. In 1911 A. Butt, the owner of the Victoria Palace Theatre in London being a big fan of Pavlova, as a token of love and appreciation ordered to install a gold-plated figure of Pavlova on top of the theater building. A sort of white tulips was named in honor of the great ballerina in the Netherlands.