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Spotlight: Olga Preobrajenska

Hi everyone! Sorry about the lack of a post on Thursday, it's been very hectic of late with moving out of my hall. But here's this week's Spotlight Saturday on ballerina Olga Preobrajenska.

In 'Le Corsaire'

Olga was born Olga Iosifovna Preobrazhenskaya in St. Petersburg on 2 February 1871. She was born frail and with a weak spine, but desperately wanted to be a dancer. Her parents tried for years to get her into a dance school, but she was repeatedly rejected. After three years of trying, she was admitted into the Imperial Ballet School in 1879 at the age of 8.

In 'Raymonda', 1903

Olga developed strength and exquisite technique under teachers such as the choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and ballerina Anna Johansson. She had excellent turnout, but her hunched back still caused problems. However, she was an expressive actress and breathed new life into the aging ballets of the Imperial Ballet.

As Lise in 'La Fille Mal Gardee', 1890

Olga mastered not only ballet and acting, but also singing, including opera, and was an excellent pianist. She made her debut with the Imperial Ballet in 1892, in the ballet Kalkabrino. She also danced lead roles in such ballets as Bluebeard (1896), Les Millions d'Arlequin (1900), Les Saisons (1900), as well as Ivanov's Sylvia (1901), the Legat brothers' The Fairy Doll (1903), and Fokin's The Night of Terpsichore and Chopiniana (1908).

In 'Sylvia', 1876

Olga began to make international appearances in 1895, in places like London, Paris, and America. She was made prima ballerina of the Imperial Theatres in 1900. She received critical acclaim for a performance at La Scala Theatre in Milan, Italy, which was rare for a Russian ballerina at the time. She was most famous for her interpretations of the lead characters in Coppelia, Paquita, and The Nutcracker.

Most likely as the White Cat in 'The Sleeping Beauty'

As her performance career started to come to an end, she turned her attention to teaching. In 1914, she taught at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg, where her pupils included future ballerina Alexandra Danilova. Following the Russian Revolution, she emigrated in 1921 and wandered Europe, teaching in Milan, London, Buenos Aires, and Berlin, finally settling in Paris.

Most likely as Nikiya in 'La Bayadere'

She was among the most prominent and respected teachers of Paris for the next few decades. Her pupils included the future stars Irina Baronova, Tamara Toumanova, Margot Fonteyn, and Igor Youskevitch. She retired in 1960 at the age of 89, and died two years later on 27 December 1962, aged 91. She is buried, like many of her fellow dancers, in Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois Russian Cemetery in Paris.

Olga with her student Tamara Toumanova, then one of Balanchine's 'Baby Ballerinas' with the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, in Paris, March 1947

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Yvette Chauvire.

- Selene

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