Anna Pavlova: A Dancing Sensation

And to finish this week off, we have another informative article for you. This one is about the fabulous Anna Pavlova. 📝

Pavlova not only had a stunning stage presence, she also acted as a female role model for female admires. Seeing one of her performances must have been a once in a lifetime experience. Pavlova might be the most well-known prima ballerina in the whole world. 🩰

Read more about her in this article!

Anna Pavlova (Анна Матвеевна Павлова) | *12-02-1881 | † 23-01-1931 | Russia | Ballerina

Anna Matveyevna Pavlova is often characterised as the greatest female ballet dancer in history and has been an inspiration for many young women. She was the first prima ballerina to tour around the world. Pavlova was born in 1881 to Ljoebov Feodorovna and an unknown father. Her biological father is rumoured to be a Jewish Banker. As a child, Pavlova would tell people she was a product of an earlier marriage and her biological dad was a man named Pavel. This story has, however, never been verified. When her mother remarried her second husband Matvej Pavlov, Pavlov adopted Anna at the age of three. 

When Pavlova was just 8 years old, she and her mother went to see a performance of The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theatre. After the performance, the 8-year old was sure she wanted to become a ballerina. In less than two years, when she was 10 years old, Pavlova entered the St. Petersburg Imperial Dance School. The school was known for its iron discipline and 7 years of training. Pavlova seemed unusually determined to succeed, knowing that just being talented wasn’t enough to succeed in a career as prima ballerina. 

When Pavlova graduated in 1899 she was immediately admitted to dance in smaller groups on stage. This is peculiar, because it is common that new graduates will start dancing in large formations, rather than small ones. With her strong work ethic, she danced many choreographies and was praised for the mysterious way she danced. Her talent was not overseen, after every performance she gained laudatory critiques. In 1905 she danced the lead solo of choreographer Michael Fokine’s The Dying Swan. Her performance in The Dying Swan came to be her signature role.

In 1907 Pavlova went on her first international tour together with a small group of dancers. The group toured numerous European capitals. After this international tour, many others followed. Later on she went overseas and even toured Australia and the United States. It is often stated that touring in India had a big impact on Pavlova and the dancer included Indian elements in her choreographies.

During her career she was known to be a model for female admirers. During interviews she would stress the importance of complete devotion to ballet. She explained that being a ballerina takes up all your time and it is all about work. She did not bear children, because she simply thought it would  take up too much time. Her attitude towards ballet can be considered as very Russian, since ballet was very respected in Russia and the government subsidised the art form.

Around 1911 Pavlova created her own ballet company. Her main motive was to have complete creative control over her performances. Besides that, she was also able to choreograph her own roles. This made her a powerful female figure in a male-dominated world. Her presumed husband Victor Dandré was in charge of organizing her independent tours. Most dancers in her company were English women with Russianised names. During the last two decades of her life she would tour with her own company and perform ballet all around the world. She would perform in places that were barely familiar with ballet to support local dancers. Pavlova often said that she wanted to bring happiness to the people of the world through ballet.

The last twenty years of her life she resided in London with her many pets. In 1931 her strong devotion began to take its toll on her. While she was touring, Pavlova was diagnosed with pleurisy. She died on January 23th 1931 in The Hague. The legend goes that, during her final moments, she asked to see her swan costume one last time, showing her own admiration for her impressive career. During her career she became a superstar and was remembered as a role model by many.


Author: Annika Eskes
Image: La Fille Mal Gardée (1909)

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