Pavlova Anna


Anna Pavlova was the prominent Russian ballerina and one of the most celebrated dancers in world ballet history, inspiring many talented actors, musicians and choreographers with her graceful style and dance technique. Her "Dying Swan" is still a benchmark of technique and dramatizm for performers and audiences around the world.

The fact of the ballerina's birth is shrouded in mystery and full of riddles. The official record says that she was born on February 12, 1881 in the Preobrazhenskiy military hospital in St. Petersburg. Her father, Matvey Pavlov, was a peasant that served in the Preobrazhenskiy Regiment. Rumours about the possible origin of Anna Pavlova from the famous Jewish banker and commercial councillor Lazar Solomonovich Polyakov were based on the memoirs of Lazar Polyakov sons, with whom the girl was brought up, and for whom Lazar Solomonovich fininced education.

As is known that the future star decided to be a ballet dancer in her early childhood after watching the ballet "Sleeping Beauty", which made an indelible impression on the child. Pavlova was not distinguished by outstanding ballet parameters: hunched back, poor health, anaemia. However, these factors did not affect the girl's desire to devote her life to dancing. In 1891, she became a student of the Imperial Theatre School, and then, after graduation, was accepted to the Mariinsky Theatre repertory company.

She debuted in 1899 in the ballet “Pharaoh's Daughter” to the music of Cesare Pugni, production of Saint-Georges and Marius Petipa. With no patronage or name, she remained in the background for some time. Rather skinny, having poor health, the dancer had a strong-willed character: she was used to overcoming herself and even being ill did not refuse to perform on stage. Anna mesmerized the audience with her musicality, plasticity, ease of movement, and this happened despite the fact that her dance technique was not perfect yet. Marius Petipa himself often called her "my beauty", and that was the best praise from him. However, Anna realized that in order to acquire technical mastery, she had to work hard and tirelessly.

Anna Pavlova inscribed several dancinng roles  in the history of world ballet, one of them being Nikiya in “La Bayadère” to the music of Ludwig Minkus, which she first performed in 1902. By the ballerina's own admission, she treated her role not just as a dance, hence she wanted to "show the successive experiences, the transitions from one emotion to another".

Four years later Anna became the premier ballerina at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, alongside with Mathilde Kschessinska and Tamara Karsavina. At that time, the ballerina performed the roles of principal characters in the ballets “Giselle”, “Paquita”, “Swan Lake” and other iconic productions.

In early 1903, Pavlova danced for the first time on the Bolshoi Theatre stage. A new period of her brilliant, hence elaborate path began – her first triumphant tour performances in the cities of the Russian Empire.  The ballerina first of all captivated the national audience with her roles in “Giselle” and “La Bayadère”, as well as with her Dying Swan, the main concert number in the dancing career of Anna Pavlova, which was staged especially for the ballerina by her friend, choreographer Mikhail Fokine.

The ballerina individuality, the style of her dance and hovering leap brought Mikhail Fokine to the idea of romantic ballet revival. Therefore, in 1907, “Les Sylphides” appeared – a subtle stylisation in the style of graceful vivified engraving of the Maria Taglioni era. In "Les Sylphides” Pavlova danced mazurka and the Seventh Waltz with Vaclav Nijinsky.

Since 1908, the ballerina was actively touring in Europe. Helsinki, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Prague and Berlin – success awaited Pavlova in every city.

The artist's triumph contributed to the decision of Sergei Diaghilev to invite her to participate in the Russian Seasons in Paris. According to the predetermined schedule, the first ballet show of the "Russian Seasons" was scheduled to open on May 19, 1909, and its emblem was a portrait of Pavlova painted by Valentin Serov. The performances in the French capital were great success. Nevertheless, Anna danced only during the first season.

Then there were concerts in the United States, organised by the managing director of the Metropolitan Opera, Otto Kahn, who first saw Pavlova perform in Berlin and immediately signed a contract with her for a month-long tour. Already on the 28th of February 1910, the audience enthusiastically applauded Anna in New York, and then Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. At the end of the tour another agreement for the next year was signed with the ballerina. At the end of the American tour Pavlova had such a success in London that it was practically impossible to buy tickets to her performances, people queued for hours just to see the Russian celebrity. In 1910, in London, she organized her own ballet troupe to stage classics, and went on a round-the-world ballet tour with it. The debut of the troupe took place in New York on February 16, 1910, and was followed by numerous concerts in Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore.The success was incredible, Pavlova became a living legend, who was awaited and invited to dance by various countries. In 1922-1929, the ballerina visited China, Japan, Australia, Egypt, New Zealand and danced on the best stages of the world. During her career she danced more than nine thousand performances and toured through more than 40 countries.

When the name of Pavlova became world-known and her fortune provided domestic comfort, she could have lived a quiet and happy life. Hence, personal happiness was still lacking. Some sources, however, claimed that in 1911, the ballerina secretly married her long-time lover Victor Dandré. Soon after the marriage, Anna established her own troupe, with which she toured around the world. Victor took on all household chores, bookkeeping and managerial duties.
Anna became the owner of a luxurious estate in Great Britain and had her own chamber theatre in London.

The celebrated ballerina died in the Netherlands on January 23, 1931 from purulent pleurisy, which she caught during a rehearsal in unheated hall. According to one of the legends, her last words were, "Bring me my swan costume".

Anna Pavlova was unmatched. She had no resounding titles, left no followers and no school. After her death, her troupe was dissolved and her property was sold off. Only the legend of the great Russian ballerina Pavlova remained, her name was given to prizes and international awards. Feature and documentary films ("Anna Pavlova", 1983 and 1985) were dedicated to her.

French choreograph Roland Petit set the ballet “My Pavlova” to miscellaneous music by different composers. Numbers from her repertoire have been performed by the world leading ballerinas up to our days.