January 23, 2008

January 23 | Anna Pavlova

February 12, 1881 - January 23, 1931: Age 50

Anna Pavlova was arguably the greatest dancer of her time. "Arguably" only because she was a contemporary of Nijinsky and Duncan, both also contenders. But where Nijinsky favoured the avant-garde and Duncan invented her own unique style of dance, Pavlova stuck with the classics.

She trained in Russia under the greatest teachers of the day, and rose quickly to become a soloist in the Imperial Ballet. She went on to form her own company and tour the world, becoming indisputably the world's first ballet superstar. Her most famous role was that of the Dying Swan, choreographed to Saint-Saëns' "The Swan". Although she hated film as an art form, regarding it as toxic to all "true" art, she did allow herself to be filmed dancing this famous role, and today you can see it here, on YouTube.

While touring in the Netherlands her train had a slight accident, derailing and being delayed for 12 hours. She went outside dressed only in pyjamas and a light scarf to see what was happening. As a result of this she caught a cold, which developed into pneumonia. She died three weeks later. At the end, she asked to hold her Dying Swan costume. Her last words were, "Play that last measure very softly."

Sources: Wikipedia, New York Times

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