The Kennedy Center

Anna Pavlova


Born in St. Petersburg in 1881, Anna Pavlova was the one of the world's best-known ballerinas. Pavlova's parents were poor, and she was a frail and sickly child. From an early age, however, she was determined to become a ballerina and entered the Imperial Ballet School of Saint Petersburg in 1892. By the time of her graduation in 1899 she was recognized by teachers and critics as a phenomenally gifted dancer and was accepted immediately by the Imperial Ballet .

From dancing solo roles in her first years, she graduated in 1903 to the title role in Giselle and achieved ballerina status in 1906. She first performed the Dying Swan in 1907, a solo choreographed for her by Michel Fokine, and it became her signature piece for the rest of her life. The role depended on extraordinary fluidity of movement and the expression of poetic feeling for its effect.

Pavlova toured outside Russia beginning in 1908, sometimes on her own and occasionally appearing with the Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev. She organized her own dance company and toured throughout the world during the next decade. As a result of these extensive tours, managed by her husband, Victor Dandre, she became the most famous and the wealthiest dancer of her time. Her performances in these years were solos, duets with a partner and ensemble numbers derived from classical ballets. She was responsible for popularizing ballet throughout the world.

She choreographed more than a dozen works, of which the best known are Snowflakes (1915) and Autumn Leaves (1918).

Anna Pavlova