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Dance With Angels 17 – Natalia Bessmertnova – Наталья Игоревна Бессмертнова

Dance With Angels Series

Dance With Angels

– 17 –

Natalia Bessmertnova – Наталья Игоревна Бессмертнова


“The Gold Standard”

1941 – 2008

Prima Ballerina Bolshoi



Giselle 1986.
Interviews and rehearsals
with Natalia Bessmertnova, Nina Ananiashvili, Andris Liepa and Galina Ulanova.
Наталия Бессмертнова, Нина Ананишвили, Андрис Лиепа, Галина Уланова.


Bessmertnova in her signature role as Giselle - photo by Judy Cameron

Natalia Bessmertnova and Alexander Bogatyrev in Legend of Love. Bolshoi Ballet.
Наталия Бессмертнова и Александр Богатырев.


as Giselle


as Giselle

Natalia Bessmertnova and Marina Semyonova rehearsing Dying Swan.
Bolshoi Ballet.
From an old tape so picture and sound quality is not very good.
In Russian.
Наталия Бессмертнова и Марина Семенова.


She was born in Moscow in 1941 and trained at the Bolshoi Moscow Ballet School from 1953 to 1961.
Among her teachers were Maria Kozhukhova and Sofia Golovkina, and later Marina Semyonova.
She graduated in 1961 as the first student in the school’s history receiving A+ in the final examinations.
In 1963 she joined the Bolshoi Ballet and was its prima ballerina for three decades.
She was married to Yuri Grigorovich, former Director and Chief choreographer of the Bolshoi.
When Grigorovich was forced to leave the Bolshoi in 1995,
she took part in a historic strike which led to cancellations of scheduled performances.
died in Moscow on 19 February 2008, aged 66, from cancer.

biography notes by Wikipedia


Natalia Bessmertnova, Ballerina of Innate Lyricism, Dies at 66

posted in NEW YORK TIMES


Published: February 20, 2008

Natalia Bessmertnova, a ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet known for her lightness, delicacy and Romantic style, died on Tuesday in Moscow. She was 66.

Yekaterina Novikova, a spokeswoman for the Bolshoi, announced her death to The Associated Press, but did not give a cause beyond saying that Ms. Bessmertnova had been “suffering from a grave illness.” The Russian media reported that Ms. Bessmertnova had kidney trouble.

The Bolshoi’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov, said her death was “a huge loss for the Bolshoi Theater and to our whole culture,” and declared her “the pride and glory of the company to which she devoted her entire life.”

A slight, pale dancer with large eyes, Ms. Bessmertnova was known for an innate lyricism that gave her dancing a mysterious, almost unearthly beauty. These qualities made her especially notable in the title role of “Giselle.”

Reviewing the Bolshoi’s London season in 1969 for The New York Times, Clive Barnes called Ms. Bessmertnova “the kind of dancer born to dance Giselle.”

“She is as fragile as a bird, has a frail, waif-like innocence, and dances with a fey sense of doom,” he continued.

Ms. Bessmertnova frequently appeared with the Bolshoi in its New York seasons. When she starred at the New York State Theater in “Swan Lake” in 1979 in the dual role of Odette, the innocent maiden transformed into a swan, and Odile, the villainous enchantress, Anna Kisselgoff wrote in The Times that Ms. Bessmertnova “had only to step on stage to establish her great sense of style and authority.” She continued, “Regality was everywhere — from her first high leap to the velvety tone of her unfolding leg extensions.”

Ms. Bessmertnova, whose mother was a homemaker and whose father was a doctor, was born in Moscow and received early dance training in the children’s classes of the Moscow Young Pioneers Palace. Encouraged by her teachers to become a professional dancer, she continued her studies at the Bolshoi’s school and entered the company in 1961, making her debut in “Chopiniana,” a ballet known in the West as “Les Sylphides,” and one in which she could display her sense of Romantic style.

Galina Ulanova, the Bolshoi’s foremost interpreter of “Giselle,” coached her in that ballet, and her repertory also included 19th-century classics and contemporary works, especially those choreographed by her husband, Yuri Grigorovich. She made particularly strong impressions as Phrygia, the poignant wife of a rebellious slave in “Spartacus”; Shirien, a fragile woman stricken with a mysterious disease in “Legend of Love,” for which Mr. Grigorovich based much of his choreography on Persian miniature paintings; and Rita, a variety-show dancer seeking to escape the world of the stage in “The Golden Age.”

Ms. Bessmertnova and Mr. Grigorovich, who had become the Bolshoi Ballet’s artistic director, left the Bolshoi organization in 1995 during a dispute with the theater’s management that prompted the first strike in the Bolshoi’s history.

The couple frequently served on the juries of international ballet competitions. Ms. Bessmertnova received many top Russian honors, including a People’s Artist of the U.S.S.R. title in 1976 and a Lenin Prize in 1986.

Natalia Bessmertnova

One of the leading dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet for more than 30 years

posted in “The Guardian”

Natalia Bessmertnova

Gold standard … Natalia Bessmertnova. Photograph: Yevgeny Umnov/AP

For more than 30 years Natalia Bessmertnova, who has died in Moscow after a long illness aged 66, was one of the leading dancers of Bolshoi Ballet. She will be remembered especially for the roles created for her by her husband, the choreographer Yuri Grigorovich.

Some idea of Bessmertnova’s qualities can be gained from the attention she attracted during the Bolshoi’s visit to London in 1963. She was in only her second year with the company and appeared on the opening night as one of a trio of swans in Swan Lake, but immediately stood out for her striking looks and the sheer beauty of her dancing. Later in that season she danced a solo as the Autumn Fairy in Rostislav Zakharov’s version of Cinderella and a pas de deux in a gala programme, all to increasing acclaim.

Bessmertnova was born in Moscow, the daughter of a doctor. She received early dance training at the Moscow Young Pioneers Palace and entered the Bolshoi school in 1952, graduating nine years later, the first pupil to achieve A-plus, the highest possible mark. She joined the Bolshoi straight after graduation and was given her first leading part, Giselle in the ballet of that name, in 1963. Giselle was to become one of her signature roles, and her interpretation was admired greatly for the lightness and delicacy of her dancing. The following year she created the part of Leili in Kasyan Goleisovsky’s Leili and Medshnun.

She was coached in her early years in the company by the great Soviet ballerina Marina Semyonova and soon added all the classic roles to her repertoire: Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty and the heroine Kitri in Don Quixote.

In 1968 she married Grigorovich, who had been appointed artistic director of the Bolshoi in 1964. Thereafter she became very much associated with the leading women’s roles in his ballets; feminine, submissive, pliant, yearning. These included Shirin in Legend of Love, and Phrygia in Grigorovich’s best known work, Spartacus. She also succeeded Galina Ulanova, the greatest of all Soviet ballerinas, in two of her created roles – the sad heroine Maria in Fountain of Bakhchisarai and Juliet in Leonid Lavrovsky’s version of Romeo and Juliet, a character she would dance again in her husband’s version.

In 1975 Bessmertnova created the role of the Tsarina Anastasia in Grigorovich’s Ivan the Terrible. This was followed the next season by The Angara, a ballet about the building of a dam in Siberia, in which she played the heroine Valentina, whose affections are sought by two of ;the young men working on the project. Her last created role was in Grigorovich’s reworking of The Golden Age, premiered in 1982, where she played Rita, a nightclub dancer who abandons the decadence of the cabaret for a young fisherman – a part created by the young Irek Mukhamedov. In 1984 she danced the role of the eponymous heroine in the premiere of Grigorovich’s heavily revised production of the Petipa classic, Raymonda.

Bessmertnova won the gold medal at the Varna international ballet competition in 1965 and the Anna Pavlova prize in Paris in 1970. She was made a People’s Artist of the Soviet Union in 1976; the following year she won the USSR State prize and in 1986 was awarded the Lenin prize.

She continued as a leading ballerina at the Bolshoi until 1995. By this time discontent among some sections of the company over the lack of new works and Grigorovich’s management style – seen as unacceptably autocratic – had escalated to the point where negotiations began for his replacement. Grigorovich resigned, and Bessmertnova and a group of his supporters among the dancers led a strike in protest, leading to the cancellation of that evening’s performance.

Thereafter she devoted herself to her husband, who returned briefly to the Bolshoi before being appointed to run a company in Krasnodar in southern Russia. She was a judge at the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 1995 and was involved in coaching young dancers, including the controversial ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, who stated in an interview that one of the reasons for her association with the Krasnodar company was the opportunity to work with Bessmertnova.

Bessmertnova accompanied her husband to London last year when a gala was given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to celebrate his 80th birthday, and was prominent in the front row of the audience at a lecture he gave at Pushkin House in Bloomsbury later that week.

She is survived by him and her younger sister, Tatyana, who was also a soloist with the Bolshoi.

· Natalia Igorievna Bessmertnova, ballerina, born July 19 1941; died February 19 2008


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