In Alexandra Danilova's own words, "One has to have a talent for teaching--a separate talent, different from the kind that makes a great performer." In a professional career spanning more than 50 years, Danilova has proven herself to be that special combination: both a great dancer and a great teacher.
Danilova studied at the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg (then called Petrograd) and later toured Western Europe with George Balenchine in 1924. In Paris, they joined Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes for several premieres. Danilova danced with the Ballets Russes until Diaghilev's death in 1929.
She joined the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo and performed as prima ballerina from 1938 to 1952. Danilova created a great range of roles--from Leonid Massine's Le Beau Danube (1933), Jardin Public (1935), and Capriccio Espangnol (1939), to Balenchine's Danses Concertantes (1944) and Night Shadow (1946). The Massine roles in particular demonstrated her considerable charm and elegance.
During the 1940s and '50s she appeared as guest artist with numerous companies, as well as founding her own concert group. She later served as choreographer for the Metropolitan Opera.
In the 1977 film The Turning Point, Danilova played a role quite similar to her in real life--a Russian teacher and former prima ballerina, coaching a young dancer in her former roles. Danilova has influenced several generations of dancers as a beloved teacher at the school of American Ballet, which, upon her retirement bestowed upon her the Mae L. Wien Award for distinguished service.