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The Baby Ballerinas-Tamara, Irina and Tatiana….

September 12, 2013
The three "Baby Ballerinas" in 1936. From left to right: Tatiana Riabouchinska, Tamara Toumanova, Irina Baronova Photo: Handout

The three “Baby Ballerinas” in 1936. From left to right: Tatiana Riabouchinska, Tamara Toumanova, Irina Baronova Photo: Handout

The Baby Ballerinas were 3 young leading principal dancers of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the 1930s. They were individually selected by George Balanchine, and deemed the “Baby Ballerinas” by ballet critic Arnold Haskell based upon their age.

Tatiana Riabouchinska (May 23,1917 – August 24, 2000)

Tatiana Riabouchinska, ballerina, ca. 1938 by Maurice Seymour

Tatiana Riabouchinska, ballerina, ca. 1938 by Maurice Seymour

Tatiana Riabouchinska was born in Moscow on May 23, 1917. She studied with Alexander Volinine and Mathilda Kschessinska. Tatiana made her debut in Paris with the Chauve-Souris revue in 1932.  Tatiana was the one of the three “Baby Ballerinas”.  She was only 15 when she joined the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, at the request of George Balanchine.  She was known for her speed, her light, delicate style, her musicality, and her sensitive interpretation of her roles.

Tatiana stayed with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo until 1942.  Afterwards she would go on to guest with Ballet Theatre, now ABT, the Original Ballet Russe, Ballet des Champs-Elysées, and the London Festival Ballet.

Tatiana created the role of the Florentine Beauty in Paganni, which some consider to be her finest work, due to a nearly impossible set of whirling pirouettes that she executed before collapsing at the feet of Paganini. Dance critic Arnold Haskell called her performance, “among the most moving I have seen on the ballet stage.”  Tatiana was also the Junior Girl in Graduation Ball, title roles in Coq d’Or and Cinderella.  Tatiana married fellow dancer and choreographer David Lichine.  She passed away in 2000, just after teaching a ballet class.

Irina Baronova (March 13,1919 – June 28, 2008)

Russian ballerina Irina Baronova in La concurrence, c. 1937

Russian ballerina Irina Baronova in La concurrence, c. 1937

Irina Baronova was one of the three famous “Baby Ballerinas” along with Tatiana Riabouchinska and Tamara Toumanova. She was born in Petrograd in 1919 and moved to Paris during childhood. There she studied with Olga Preobrajenska and made her debut with the Paris Opera in 1930. George Balanchine noticed Irina as he watched classes and engaged her at age 13 for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in 1932.

She created roles in Leonide Massine’s Les Présages, Jeux d’enfants, Beau Danube, and Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Cent Baisers. In 1940, she joined Ballet Theatre, now ABT in New York.   Irina also appeared in films and musicals, was a guest artist with the Original Ballet Russe and was an active member of the Royal Academy of Dancing.

Tamara Toumanova (March 2, 1919 – May 29, 1996)

Tamara Toumanova  Photo: Baron

Tamara Toumanova Photo: Baron

Tamara was born in Russian on a train while her mother was trying to flee during the Revolution.  The family eventually settled in Paris. She studied with Olga Preobrajenska.   Tamara made her debut at the Paris Opera at the age of nine in L’Eventail de Jeanne.  Tamara was the second of the three “ Baby Ballerinas”.

George Balanchine saw her in ballet class signed her to the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo.  Balanchine choreographed the part of the Young Girl for Tamara in his ballet Cotillon, Concurrence and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme and Le Palais de Cristal (now Symphony in C) in 1947 at the Paris Opera.  Due to her stunning beauty and dark features, she came to be known as “The Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet.” She starred in a little known pro-soviet film with, Gregory Peck, called “Days of Glory”.

It Is Said…………….

…….that the publicity of the three “Baby Ballerinas” helped to revive interest in ballet after Serge Diaghilev’s death.  Europe had been left without a major ballet company.

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