Spotlight: Natalia Makarova

This week's Spotlight Saturday focuses on Russian ballerina Natalia Makarova.

Makarova was born in Leningrad, Russia, on 21 November 1940. At the age of 12, she auditioned for the Leningrad Choreographic School (formerly the Imperial Ballet School prior to the Revolution). Despite her age (most students began tuition at the age of 9), she was accepted.

In 'Giselle'

Upon graduation, she joined the Kirov (formerly Mariinsky) Ballet, with whom she stayed until 1970. She achieved the status of prima ballerina in the 1960s. While on a tour to London with the Kirov Ballet in 1970, she and fellow dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to the West. Shortly afterwards, Makarova began performing with American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet.

With Mikhail Baryshnikov

Despite being most commonly identified with classic roles such as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake and Giselle in Giselle, Makarova keenly explored modern choreography. She and Baryshnikov (now her dance partner) were heavily featured in an episode of the BBC series Arena in December 1975, and Makarova was also featured in the 1976 live broadcast of ABT's Swan Lake. When ABT's artistic director resigned, both Makarova and Baryshnikov applied for the position. When it was given to Baryshnikov, Makarova left for the Royal Ballet in London.

In 'Don Quixote'

She continued to excel on the stage, most notably in Giselle. In 1989, she returned to the Kirov and was reunited with her friends and teachers. Her homecoming was recorded in a documentary entitled Makarova Returns. After her Kirov performance, she retired from the stage, donating her shoes and costumes to the Kirov Museum. Her reasons for retiring included her numerous injuries, particularly to her knees.

Today, Makarova stages ballets such as La Bayadere, Swan Lake, and the Sleeping Beauty for companies around the world. Alongside her dance career, she has won a Tony award for her performance in a revival of the Broadway musical On Your Toes, and played Lydia Lopokova in Wooing in Absence. She is 76 years old.

Here she is in The Dying Swan:

And with Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Sleeping Beauty pas de deux:

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Lucile Grahn.

- Selene

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