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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian World of Ballet Mourns Legend's Death




For balletomanes in Russia and around the world, Galina Ulanova was the embodiment of the grace and perfection of Russian ballet traditions. The legendary star of the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets died Saturday at the age of 88.


With her romantic style, Ulanova returned Russian dance to its international glory after decades of seclusion within the Soviet empire following the 1917 Revolution.


In 1956, on the ballet's first tour to London under Soviet rule, she starred in triumphant performances of Sergei Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" that brought the audience of the Royal Opera House to peaks of excitement. Although she was 45 at the time, there have been few Juliets to match the lightness and picture of innocence of Ulanova, one of the greatest dancers of this century.


International fame descended on Ulanova at the end of her dancing career.


She graced the stages of the United States only in 1959, just a few years before her final retirement as a performer.


Born in 1910 to a family of dancers from the Mariinsky Theater, which became known in Soviet times as the Kirov, Ulanova studied at the Leningrad State School of Choreography. Her teacher was the legendary Agrippina Vaganova.


Upon graduation, she joined the Kirov Ballet, where she soon became a principal dancer. She was widely considered one of the best dramatic dancers on the Soviet stage.


Besides Juliet, her star roles included Odette in "Swan Lake," the title role in "Giselle" and Maria in "Fountain of Bakhchisarai." In 1944, Ulanova joined the Bolshoi in Moscow.


After retiring from the stage in the mid-1960s, Ulanova stayed on as ballet mistress, coaching soloists who became the pride of national ballet. Practically all of the stars of the Bolshoi Ballet in recent decades, including Yekaterina Maksimova, worked with Ulanova.


Along with her international fame, Ulanova enjoyed the immense respect of her colleagues.


Until her very last days, she frequently visited the Bolshoi, and dancers would step aside to clear the way for the former prima ballerina as she walked through the backstage corridors.


"She will not be forgotten, not only for her pupils, but for her pupils' pupils," Victor Hochhauser, the British promoter who brought the Bolshoi Ballet to London in 1956, said in a telephone interview Monday.


"It's a legacy that still remains," he said. A public memorial service for Ulanova will be held at noon Wednesday in the Bolshoi Theater. She will be buried later the same day at Novodevichye Cemetery in Moscow, the final resting place of many of Russia's cultural elite.