Hello! - Anna Pavlova

Posted: May 01 2015

Dance Costumes Hello Anna Pavlova ImageAt Tokyo Monster we are dance crazy and Ballet has to be one of our favourite types. Classical or modern, ballet is always breathtaking and the ballerina’s are stunning.
Here is the start of our blog series on the greatest dancers as they are all very interesting characters:

We are going to start with one of the most famous ballerina’s in the world, Anna Pavlova:

Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova was born in St Petersburg, Russia in 1881. She is best known for redefining the role of prima ballerina for audiences worldwide. More than that, she became a ballet impresario - possibly the first woman to do so, and she was a creator and collator of dance, both nationally and internationally.

Pavlova’s Early Promise

Like many ballet dancers of Russian origin, Anna Pavlova won a place at the Imperial Ballet Academy, which she entered at the age of ten. When she graduated, in 1902, she joined the Mariinsky Theatre (a place that also launched the careers of Nijinsky, Ulanova, Nureyev and Baryshnikov) and just a year later became their first soloist, then ballerina in 1905 and prima ballerina in 1906. This rapid rise showed the dedication for which Pavlova was to become famous.

International Ballet Star

It was Serge Diaghilev who brought Anna Pavlova to international attention - in 1909 he took her to Paris to dance with his company there, the Ballets Russes. Her relationship with Diaghilev was stormy, as was true of many of her relationships with men, and she felt she was not given the prominence she deserved which was probably true as Ballets Russes focused upon the role of male ballet dancers, with women very much as supporting cast.

By 1910 she’d decided to form her own company and tour internationally. When she got to England she hired English ballet dancers to support the troupe she’d brought from St Petersburg and that combined company toured America in 1913, just before the start of World War One.

Despite her exposure to the innovative techniques used by Diaghilev, she was clever enough to keep classic ballet at the core of her company and both Giselle and Sleeping Beauty were regularly performed internationally by her troupe. Her own signature roles: The Dying Swan, choreographed for her by Michael Fokine and the duet Bacchanale, were more contemporary than the traditional ballets on which her company built their reputation, but Pavlova understood the need to balance modern dance with well-accepted favourites.

Ballet’s 1st Global Prima Ballerina

By 1912 Pavlova’s reputation was so well established she was able to resign from the Russian Imperial Ballet, and buy a home in London’s Golders Green where she kept a menagerie including a pond that was home to several swans which she studied to improve her signature role.

Not only did she practise her own skills, from her London home, Pavlova toured the world, created and staged ballets using elements of both Japanese and Indian dance, and designed the public persona of an elegant assured woman in total control of her environment. In that sense she was much like a modern day diva - presenting an image that maintained her poise and dignity.

Public Ballet Legend, Private Mystery

Despite her world-wide reputation, and her demanding touring schedule, much of Pavlova’s life remained enigmatic. Her father was unknown and it’s not clear whether she ever married Victor Dandré, whom she variously described as ‘companion’, ‘manager’ and ‘husband’.

What is certain is that the dedication she brought to her vocation took its toll on her health. She died of pneumonia in 1931, at the age of fifty-one. Rumour has it that her last words were a request for her Dying Swan costume to be prepared … and that night in an old ballet tradition, the curtains opened onto an empty stage and the musicians played the music of her most famous role to the bare boards, in her honour.

Getting started in Ballet is an exciting time and we have a great selection of Ballet Shoes, Leotards and other ballet supplies to help you on your way to becoming a Prima Ballerina!

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