Yekaterina Geltzer is the first Russian ballet dancer that received the People's Artist of the USSR rank. The future dancer was born in Moscow in the family associated with theatre. Her father Vasily Geltzer was the Bolshoi Theatre ballet dancer; uncle Anatoly Geltzer was theater artist. Ekaterina was the third daughter in the family and was dreaming of theatre since her childhood. Children theatrical plays turned into real performances - with decorations, costumes and rehearsals.
In 1894, after graduating from Moscow Ballet School, Yekaterina Geltzer served at the Bolshoi Theatre. Young Katya started to dance at the Bolshoi stage convinced that virtuoso classical dance is the main means of expression in ballet. In 1896-1898, she performed at the Mariinsky Theater. In those years, the Moscow ballet was inconsiderable comparing to the Petersburg ballet, and the management encouraged young dancers’ traineeship. She danced in many performances by choreographer Marius Petipa, which left a major mark on all her further creative work. Yekaterina Geltzer danced for two seasons at the Mariinsky Theatre stage. She performs roles of fairies in “The Sleeping Beauty” and some other minor parts in the first season. In her second theater season, Geltzer got a long-expected role in the ballet “Raymonda”.
The first performances in which the actress danced upon returning to Moscow were “Raymonda” and “Ondine, ou la Naïade et le Pêcheur”.
Later Geltzer performed the main roles in many ballets –“Don Quixote”, “The Little Humpbacked Horse”, “The Magic Mirror”, “La Bayadère”, and “Pharaoh's Daughter”. Her performance in those roles was brilliant and always variegated. Dramatic component in her dancing was very strong, the ballerina managed to create such convincing profound characters. The perfect mastery of choreographic technique made it possible for her to concentrate on mood and character of the personage.
She participated in Sergei Diaghilev Russian Seasons in 1910 having already made a big name for herself. Two stars appeared on the Parisian stage at once, representing two schools of Russian ballet - Yekaterina Geltzer and Anna Pavlova. However, side-by-side tours did not gave pleasure to both of them. They were top-ranked stars; both were hard-nosed and had explosive temper.
After the revolution, when almost all ballet soloists immigrated to Europe, Geltzer became "the mistress of the Bolshoi Theatre". According to contemporaries, she was called Catherine, the First. It was not without reason that Geltzer was loved in Moscow - she somehow corresponded to the city temper.
It should be noted that the idea of making the perception of ballet accessible to the public at large occurred to Geltzer in 1913. By that time, a network of community halls, that was, a kind of clubs for workers, had developed in many Russian cities. Yekaterina Geltzer decided to perform at the Alekseevsky Community Hall, located in the centre of Moscow. She danced Waltz by Chopin, “Bacchanalia”, “Hungarian Dance” and her Russian Folk Dance delighted and enchanted the audience.
By the mid-twenties, the necessity of creation new, modern repertoire that might meet the audience transfigured demands and the imperatives of the era, became obvious to the Bolshoi Theater governing body and artists. The work on “The Red Poppy” ballet plot began. The libretto described the events that took place in the Chinese port. Yekaterina visited China and could introduce many regional socio-cultural details. The beginning composer Reinhold Glière that wrote the music for this ballet turned to the famous ballet dancer advice. The first Soviet ballet, in which Geltzer was a soloist at the age of fifty, enjoyed a great success.
Yekaterina has travelled to many cities in Russia and abroad. She knew France well; she visited it at least twenty times. In 1931, in Berlin, she met Albert Einstein, who welcomed her at his house, saying that he had been practicing the violin all day, cherishing the dream - what if Geltzer decides to dance… He could accompany on the violin. Yekaterina knew how to guess right the dreams of her fans. When she was planning her visit to Einstein, she put pointe shoes in her handbag.
Having retired from stage in 1935, Yekaterina never broke with the ballet art. She was the honorary member of the Bolshoi Theater Art Council and permanent participant in the passing-out examinations at the school of choreography. At the age of sixty-five, she danced Polonaise and Mazurka! She made it with such perfection, so emotional that the audience invariably pleaded to repeat the performance.
Yekaterina resumed performing during the war years; she did not want to leave her beloved city. Six governors were replaced in Russia, three revolutions happened, five wars took place - two of which were World wars and one Civil war during the stage career of Yekaterina Geltzer. She was awarded with Stalin Prize and received an Order of Lenin and Order of the Red Banner of Labour.
Geltzer was married to a ballet dancer and stage director, her colleague Vasily Tikhomirov. They remained friends even after divorce, until the death of Tikhomirov in 1956.
The life of Ekaterina Geltzer - the greatest Russian ballerina, an extraordinary personality, a woman with amazing dramatic fate ended on December 12, 1962. Her last words were about her favourite art, which she never betrayed ...
The period when she reigned at the Bolshoi Theater stage is called by ballet addicts the "Geltzer era”.