Art for the Ages

Anna Pavlovna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova - 1905

(February 12, 1881 – January 23, 1931)

Anna Pavlova was the most celebrated ballet dancer of her time. She was born in St. Petersburg, Imperial Russia, and died in The Hague, Netherlands, of pneumonia at the age of 49.

Anna grew up in St. Petersburg, Tsarist Russia, where ballet dancing was flourishing, and where young promising dancers could be accepted and trained at the Imperial School of Ballet at the Mariinsky Theater. Anna applied to the school in 1890 at the age of nine, but because of her frail physique, she was rejected. With the help of her mother, she re-applied in 1891 and was accepted at the age of ten. She continued to study there under some of the greatest dance masters of that era, graduating at the age of 18. In 1899, Anna joined the Imperial Ballet. She moved steadily up through the ranks of dancers until becoming prima ballerina in 1906. In 1909 she went to Paris on a tour with the Ballet Russes. After 1913, she formed her own independent dance company and began touring the world.

While other ballet companies were starting to innovate and push the art in new directions, Anna preferred to showcase the classical style of ballet, which was glamourous, poetic, graceful, and possessing a transformative magic power over audiences. She became a missionary for ballet, introducing it to audiences in Europe, Japan, America, India and Australia. She also performed many ethnic forms of dance which she learned while travelling, including Mexican (the Hat Dance), Japanese and East Indian.

In addition to being an ambassador for the art of ballet, Anna Pavlova also supported Russian orphans in post-World War I Paris. She adopted several poverty-stricken girls into a home she purchased near Paris. She financed it with funds from her performances, as well as with donations from such groups as the Camp Fire Girls of America.

She is best known for her performances in such ballets as Giselle (Adolphe Adam), Sleeping Beauty (Tchaikovsky), and The Pharaoh’s Daughter (Marius Petipa and Cesare Pugni). Perhaps her best-known performance was a solo dance of The Dying Swan (Mikhail Fokine and Camille Saint-Saens). Her home, Ivy House, featured a pond which contained several pet swans.

In 1912, Pavlova moved to London to a home known as “Ivy House,” where she lived for the rest of her life. She secretly married Victor Dandre, her manager and companion, in 1914. While married to Victor, she continued to tour with her company for the rest of her life.They remained together until Anna’s death in 1931.

Anna Pavlova as The Dying Swan
Anna Pavlova as “The Dying Swan”
Rare footage of Anna Pavlova performing “The Dying Swan”
*Thanks to Wikipedia for much of the information contained above!
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