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Thread: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

  1. #1

    Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    The St.Petersburg Times - the English-language newspaper of St. Petersburg, Russia.

    Friday, January 31, 2003

    the end of a ballet era

    by Galina Stolyarova

    Natalya Dudinskaya, one of the last surviving legends of Soviet ballet, died aged 90 on Wednesday

    Both on stage and in life, Dudinskaya was the personification of joie de vivre. No other dancer could compare to her lightning-fast cascades razor-edge precise steps. Her dancing technique was once labeled "choreographic bel canto," a reference to the classic Italian vocal school demonstrated at its best by singers such as Maria Callas.

    She brought power, passion and a fiery temperament to her interpretations of classical-ballet roles: a regal Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty," a magnificent Odile in "Swan Lake," a tormented Nikiya in "La Bayadere," and a flirtatious Kitrie in "Don Quixote." One of her favorite roles was the title part in "Cinderella," in a staging designed for her by her husband, renowned Soviet choreographer Konstantin Sergeyev.

    Dudinskaya's talents were also acknowledged by the state. A People's Artist of the Soviet Union, she was also awarded four state prizes by the U.S.S.R.

    A festive-looking dancer, Dudinskaya possessed an avalanche of energy and will. Her perfectionist character and devotion to ballet earned her a reputation as a zealous, even fanatical, workaholic. The same qualities also made her a merciless critic and a demanding mentor at the Vaganova Ballet Academy, where she taught from 1964.

    Dudinskaya was born in Kharkov on Aug. 21, 1912. The daughter of a ballerina, she was born to be a dancer, and her career at the top began as soon as she graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in 1931. Due to her status as a favorite student of Agrippina Vaganova - "Iron Agrippina," the legendary teacher who revolutionized Russian ballet in the 1920s to make it conform more to the new, Soviet expectations - Dudinskaya did not have to wait long for the plum roles.

    She made her debut at the State Acadmic Opera and Ballet Theater - now the Mariinsky Theater - the year she graduated. During her first season, she appeared in the title role in "Swan Lake," instantly drawing attention and captivating audiences with her talent and fiery temperament. For the next 21 years, until 1962, Dudinskaya performed all the classical repertoire with the company, from whose history her name is an inseperable part.

    Dudinskaya's friends compared her career with an inextinguishable firework. No obstacle, it seemed, could wipe the jubilant smile off the dancer's face, and no challenge was too intimidating for her.

    "I always avoid thinking about depressing things," said Dudinskaya, who described herself as an easy-going optimist. "Rather, I concentrate on the bright, positive sides."

    Dudinskaya loved all the attention she got. Crowds of admirers waited outside her house, and outside the theater when she danced. It became impossible for her to walk the streets of St. Petersburg without being recognized.

    Dudinskaya enjoyed a uniquely long stage life - an incredible 35 years - at the State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, which was renamed the Kirov Theater in 1935, staying faithful to her alma mater, despite the temptation of a move to Moscow. In her forties, she looked half her actual age, dancing with 20-year-old partners of her choosing, including greats such as Rudolf Nureyev.

    "After [my] graduation, our prima ballerina, the great Dudinskaya, approached and and said she would like to dance 'Laurencia' with me," Nureyev later wrote. "It was like a fairy tale."

    Even when her stage career finished, Dudinskaya could not leave ballet or the theater, where she began teaching in 1951. She stopped teaching at the Vaganova Academy only in 2001. Her most famous student - also her favorite - was current Mariinsky dancer Ulyana Lopatkina.

    "[Dudinskaya] was very attentive; she never forgot us, even long after graduation," said Mariinsky dancer Irina Zhelonkina, who also graduated from Dudinskaya's class. "She was always interested to know how we are, and was ready to give us all her support, whenever we needed it."

    Dudinskaya was seen as the uncrowned queen of Russian ballet, for her regal, noble spirit and lack of arrogance, and for her combination of elegant grace and almost masculine strength of will. Her judgements were straightforward and sharp. "I don't mind fresh interpretations of classical ballets, but they shouldn't turn into a destruction of an exisiting piece," she once said, when asked about the Mariinsky's attempts to stage new versions of classical works.

    "Ballet is my life and my heart" was a phrase Dudinskaya repeated like a mantra. Yet she had another passion - music - that was just as strong; she even suggested arrangements of certain musical works.

    "When you look through the scores of various ballets that Dudinskaya danced, you sometimes see notes in the margin indicating 'Dudinskaya's variations,' meaning she adapted some of the dance [music] to her tempo," said Makhar Vaziyev, the head of the Mariinsky's ballet division. "She was an artist of rare talent, whom it will be impossible to replace. We often hear pompous phrases said about people but, in Dudinskaya's case, no praise is high enough."

    Dudinskaya will be buried on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Literatorskiye Mostki Cemetery - also the last resting place of Turgenev and Blok - alongside Sergeyev, her husband. Members of the public can pay their last respects at a viewing on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Mariinsky Theater's White Foyer

  2. #2
    sk8ing lady2001

    Re: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    I dedicate this post in memory of Natalya. :(

  3. #3

    Re: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    I've never seen her dance in NY. I wonder if she ever performed in the USA? I did see her in some Soviet films. She was quite the bravura ballerina.

    The Bolshoi did come here as an exchange of Arts between the USA and the USSR in the 60s. We got the legendary Galina Ulanova and Maya Plitseskaya. Much of the visits were received as stupendous by non ballet fans. The ballet fans tended to think of the Soviets as excellent technicians but rather stodgy. Ballanchine had gone beyond the old Russian school.


  4. #4

    Re: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    I saw Dudinskaya dance on film, but only once about 20 years ago at the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library. The Kirov and Bolshoi dancers were overall the superior technicians to the US ballet dancers in the 50s and 60s, but by the early 70s things had evened up. Also, the Balanchine style was so different from the Russian, much lighter, faster, sleeker, more "modern"--not just his technique but also (perhaps especially) his choreography. When the Soviet system started to crumble, you could really see its effects in the Bolshoi and Kirov. Where their corps work used to be impeccable, it was now sloppy. The last time I saw either company was the Kirov in the late 80s. Very sad to see the deterioration, but there was still that spark of great Russian tradition. Dudinskaya really lived 20th Century Russian ballet. Thanks for the link, Eltamina. I'll have to see if there is a book on her.

  5. #5

    Re: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    I am not familiar with this dancer - but what a loss to the ballet world!


  6. #6

    Re: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    r181 I agree about
    'Balanchine style was so different from the Russian, much lighter, faster, sleeker"

    Is that one of the many reasons why American ballerinas seem to have more problems with eating disorders?

    Joesitz, and r181 et al, some day I love to see a thread about Balanchine and SF.

  7. #7

    Re: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    The Balanchine aesthetic for his women was literally the American Beauty rose. He wanted them tall, very thin, long legs, long arms, short torso, small head. And of course Balanchine influenced all of American ballet. If you look at the Russian dancers, they tend to have more curves. IMO, you can almost see a more "peasant" stock in them (for lack of a better word), whereas the Balanchine dancers, Suzanne Farrell being virtually the ideal ideal, looks so light, long, and delicate. Darci Kistler is the last of the prima ballerinas actually selected and groomed by Balanchine before his death who is still performing. As for eating disorders, I think the aesthetic demand to be THAT thin no doubt leads to eating disorders in those who are already predisoposed and who were not born with the genetics to be that thin naturally. However I also know there are eating disorders among dancers who don't have to be Balanchine-thin, but who still have to diet a lot to be dancer thin. I don't know of any studies comparing the incidence of eating disorders in dancers from different cultures--it's hard doing those studies on any group of dancers for reasons of compliance--but it would be interesting. I always think of Margot Fonteyn as a great example of a woman who looked like a woman yet still had an almost ideal ballet body. A lot of it has to do with the percent body fat, and Fonteyn was very lean with beautiful long muscles, but without looking "muscular." But you've got to pick your parents well for that

    Yeah, a Balanchine/Suzanne Farrell thread would be interesting--at least to a couple of us:lol: I saw her both with NYCB and Bejart and heard her talk about her book in the late '80s (she's still amazing looking). Hmm, I'll have to revisit my Balanchine stuff.

  8. #8

    Re: Natalya Dudinskaya Russian ballet legend died

    eltamina - Yes, Ballanchine girls were specially built, and now that build is required almost universally in all the ballet companies. Hateful as it might seem, he was right, imo.

    There was an interesting article on Suzanne Farrell in a recent issue of the NewYorker. Quite intimate and her relationship with Ballanchine was pure Mentor/Child. She is, apparently, still around with a company of her own in DC. I saw her dance a few times years ago including once with the super macho Bejart Co. Imo, nothing special in the technique area although she had super extensions, but she was musical and had a very commanding presence.


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