Prima ballerina assoluta – the best of the best – part 2


We continue our ballet series about prima ballerina assoluta with another 2 dancers from the most commonly accepted list.


Galina Ulanova, the greatest ballerina of the 20th century

In our previous series, we saw that Enrico Cecchetti’s parents did not wish for their son to follow in their footsteps (even though, he was born in the dressing room of the theatre where they were working). Well, Galina Ulanova’s parents, both dancers at the Mariinsky Theatre, saw no other career path for their daughter. Despite the fact that Galina wished to be a sailor. 

Galina Ulanova, prima ballerina assoluta

But their reasons were not entirely selfish. In those times, food was scarce in Soviet Russia, and by attending a ballet school little Galina could be fed.

Galina started to dance on the same stage as her parents, but there is no doubt that the Bolshoi stage was more spectacular and fit for her talent. And she was moved here by none other than Joseph Stalin where she became the prima ballerina assoluta of the company.

But her talent had to be shown outside Russia, and when she was 46 years old, she captured the hearts of the British public (you may remember her from the TV show The crown – season 2, episode 1).

Throughout her life, she received many honors and awards for her talent. Now, if you want to feel her spirit, you should visit the memorial museum in Moscow.

And if you still have doubts about her talent, I will end her description with Sheveleva’s words: London has never seen Ulanova before, but the legend of her lived here a long time ago. Legends are dangerous: ahead of the event itself, they are rarely and hardly confirmed in life. Not only has Ulanova’s art never known such discord, it has defeated the legend, appearing even more beautiful than it was thought and dreamed.


Yvette Chauviré, the only French prima ballerina assoluta

We know that France was the country that popularized ballet, thanks to kings, dancers, musicians, and choreographers. This is why I think it is ironic that there is only one French prima ballerina assoluta. But how she rose to fame, well, it is fitting for the best of the best.

At only 10 years old, she entered the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet School and two years later she caught the eyes of the public. Following her fame found in the children’s ballet she was asked to join the company a year later (so at 13 years old). 

Yvette Chauviré, prima ballerina assoluta

The director had other plans for her. He wanted that Yvette play new ballets (choreographed by him). In the meantime, the ballerina trained with two other Russian choreographers who influenced her style. 

The end of the second world war meant that the director was accused of being a German sympathizer and he was fired. Yvette, as loyal as the previous French ballerinas that followed their choreographers into Russia centuries ago, quit and started to dance at a new company in Monte Carlo (which he founded) 

France missed their ballerina and tried to bring back both of them, but Yvette hated the gilded cage on which they put her, meaning that she had little freedom to dance somewhere else. So, she left again. And, again, the Paris Opera Ballet tried to bring her back and give her freedom. 

Yvette danced on stages from Europe, the United States, South Africa, and Latin America. Now is the time when she started to dance classical roles, such as Giselle, or Sleeping Beauty. She also appeared in two movies (one at Cannes – Yvette Chauviré: une étoile pour l’example).

But if you find this series boring because ballet is an art that you do not understand, then I will end this article with the words of Yvette Chauviré: How many times have we had a houseful of people who had never, ever been to a classical ballet, and what a triumph it was. Whereas, if we listened to certain people, who cry: ‘Enough of all that! It’s old hat.’ Well, ‘old hat’ it may be, but it still delights people, especially if it’s beautifully danced. Yes, it’s a delightful thing. All this will never die. Out of the ashes, the phoenix. It will never die.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here