Ballet great Galina Ulanova passed away 13 years ago today. In her honor, we are posting many videos of her performances from over the years as a member of the Kirov (née Mariinsky) and Bolshoi ballet companies.
Wikipedia writes of the Russian ballerina:
Galina Sergeyevna Ulánova (Russian: Галина Сергеевна Уланова, born in Saint Petersburg, Russia; 7 January 1910 [O.S. 26 December 1909] – 21 March 1998) is frequently cited as being one of the greatest 20th Century ballerinas. Her flat in Moscow is designated a national museum, and there are monuments to her in Saint Petersburg and Stockholm.
Ulanova studied in Petrograd under Agrippina Vaganova and her own mother, a ballerina of the Imperial Russian Ballet. When she joined the Mariinsky Theatre in 1928, the press found in her "much of Semyonova's style, grace, the same exceptional plasticity and a sort of captivating modesty in her gestures". They say that Konstantin Stanislavsky, fascinated with her acting style, implored her to take part in his stage productions. In 1944, when her fame reached Stalin, he had her transferred to the Bolshoi Theatre, where she would be the prima ballerina assoluta for 16 years...
Ulanova was a great actress as well as dancer, and when she was finally allowed to tour abroad at the age of 46, enraptured British papers wrote that "Galina Ulanova in London knew the greatest triumph of any individual dancer since Anna Pavlova". Having retired from the stage at the age of 50, she coached many generations of the Russian dancers.
The New York Times wrote these words about the ballet legend in a March 22, 1998 obituary:
Inspired by Prokofiev's score to 'Romeo and Juliet' (one of three he wrote for the ballerina) and by the bold choreography of Leonid Lavrovsky, Miss Ulanova's dancing, and that of the Bolshoi, helped make the case after Stalin's death that Russian classical ballet remained the finest in the world...
Miss Ulanova performed most of the greatest roles in classical ballet, including the leads in 'Giselle,' 'Swan Lake,' 'Cinderella' and 'Sleeping Beauty.' Such was her power that when Mr. Martin criticized -- mildly -- her performance in 'Swan Lake' during the 1959 New York tour, Pravda responded the next day by accusing him and The Times of being 'bent on continuing the cold war.'
The Independent said:
GALINA ULANOVA was the greatest ballerina of her time. Her special magnetism was a physical and spiritual beauty; an infinite power to transmit sensitive feelings and an infinite facility to express subtle shades of movement. Her bewitching artistry and histrionic genius enabled her to give performances of aesthetic enchantment. Such was her power on stage that she could reduce her audience to a state of hysteria...
Ulanova would never discuss politics. She considered herself a servant of the state, but one apart. Undoubtedly she was protected from the top. She kept herself aloof, and during her greatest fame was scarcely approachable without an official permit from the KGB. As an artist, she was a product of the Soviet system...
The eventual unprecedented success of Romeo and Juliet prompted Prokofiev to propose another ballet for her. What great heroine from history would she like to create? Ulanova surprised him by choosing a fairy tale heroine - Cinderella. It provided her with a delightful ingenue role which she danced with exquisite charm...
TIME Magazine, writing in 2006 about Ulanova's debut in London fifty years earlier, said:
There were skeptics that night in London in 1956. Moscow's renowned Bolshoi Ballet had finally crossed the Iron Curtain to premiere at the Royal Opera House with Romeo and Juliet, starring a 46-year-old Galina Ulanova in the title role of the ballet's tragic—and teenage—heroine. Balletomanes whispered in the stalls. How could the aging prima ballerina avoid public embarrassment?
Backstage, Ulanova waited, dressed in an overcoat. But when the conductor gave the cue, she shed her bulky outer layer and emerged a starry-eyed Juliet. Leaping as if to ignore gravity, Ulanova soared into legend, setting the standard against which all future Juliets would be measured. Her performance also confirmed the West's opinion of Russian classical ballet as the world's best.
- Galina Ulanova in "Swan Lake"
- Plisetskaya Ulanova Fountain of Bakhchisarai
- GISELLE (Ulanova-Fadeyechev, Bolshoi 1956) - 1 of 6
h/t Rebecca Liao