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Alexandra Danilova – 1903-1997….

January 13, 2014
Danilova in a studio shot capturing the glamour and dramatic charisma that made her a beloved star with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.(Photograph by Constantine; from the Collections of the Music Division, Library of Congress.)

Danilova in a studio shot capturing the glamour and dramatic charisma that made her a beloved star with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.(Photograph by Constantine; from the Collections of the Music Division, Library of Congress.)

Born in Russia, Alexandra Danilova (1903-1997) studied under Agrippina Vaganova at Imperial Ballet School in Saint Petersburg. In 1920 she entered the former Mariinsky Company, where she was quickly dancing solo roles.  In 1924 she visited Western Europe with a small ballet ensemble headed by George Balanchine but the group never returned to Russia instead they joined Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

Ms. Danilova soon rose to prominence in the Diaghilev company, creating leading roles in Apollon Musagète, La Pastorale, and The Triumph of Neptune and created roles in works by Balanchine as well as Léonide Massine.

In 1933 she joined Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes, where she remained until 1938, when she became the prima—and much loved—ballerina of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

Danilova had a sparkling personality that endeared her to audiences and a repertory that encompassed nineteenth- and twentieth-century classics, dancing soubrette as well as dramatic roles. In 1946 she collaborated with Balanchine on a staging of the full-length Raymonda and created the role of the Sleepwalker in Night Shadow.

Alexandra Danilova as a star of Colonel de Basil's Ballet Russe, 1936. (Photo by Maurice Seymour. Courtesy of Ronald Seymour/Maurice Seymour Archive.)

Alexandra Danilova as a star of Colonel de Basil’s Ballet Russe, 1936. (Photo by Maurice Seymour. Courtesy of Ronald Seymour/Maurice Seymour Archive.)

In 1951 she left the Ballet Russe and appearing as guest artist with several ballet companies, including Sadler’s Wells Ballet, and formed her own company (Great Moments of Ballet, 1954–56) touring Japan, the Philippines, and South Africa. She danced her farewell performance in Tokyo in 1957. In 1964 she joined the faculty of the School of American Ballet (the official school of the New York City Ballet) and brought to American ballet the training and traditions of both the classical Russian and the modern Diaghilev repertoires. She staged excerpts from classical ballets for the annual workshops and staged, with Balanchine, the full Coppélia for the New York City Ballet (1974–75).

Ms. Danilova also appeared in musical comedy (Oh Captain!, 1958), taught, and made lecture tours. She played a small but significant role in the motion picture The Turning Point (1977). She also staged ballets for other companies. She died in at her home in New York City (July 13, 1997). She was 93 years-old.

She won note both for her extensive repertoire, ranging from romantic to abstract Balanchine roles, and for the individuality of her characterizations, particularly the street dancer in Le Beau Danube, the glove seller in Gaîté Parisienne, Odette in Swan Lake, and Swanilda in Coppélia.

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