ballerina, choreographer, teacher
November 20, 1903 - July 13, 1997
Aleksandra Danilova was a Russian and American prima ballerina. In 1989, her lifetime achievements in ballet were recognized with one of the highest civil awards in America, the Kennedy Center Honor.
Aleksandra Danilova - The Long Walk of a Ballerina
Aleksandra Dionisyevna Danilova was born in Peterhof, near St. Petersburg, she trained at the Russian Imperial Ballet School and, after graduation, was accepted into the St. Petersburg's Imperial Ballet.
But her career in Russia was not meant to be long. Like hundreds and thousands of other artists, she decided to escape, and in 1924, she and George Balanchine
, who was her close friend and colleague (and future star choreographer), left Soviet Russia...
Danilova was said to have an intimate relationship with Balanchine after his divorce from Tamara Geva, but they never married. And even after the end of their romance, Danilova and Balanchine remained good friends and continued the fruitful professional partnership.
Soon they both were picked up by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Danilova was employed as a dancer, and Balanchine - as a choreographer and later ballet master. They toured extensively for many years under Diaghilev, and then, after the latter's death, with the star-studded Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.
Danilova's last ballet performance was in 1957; thereafter she had to find another creative avenue and a means of putting bread on the table. She tried Broadway, a logical choice for many dancers (with some achieving success), and indeed stole the show in her musical comedy debut Oh, Captain! (1958), when she danced with the show's star, Tony Randall. Unfortunately, the musical was a commercial flop and was soon closed...
She was in dire financial situation, when one day in 1964 she bumped into Balanchine on the street completely by accident. When Balanchine heard of her position, he hired her on the spot to teach at the School of American Ballet, where he was working as a ballet master.
In 1965, she was allowed by Balanchine to produce a spring workshop performance for the students. Her initiative quickly grew into a fully fledged feature event, used to preview many outstanding dancers. She also choreographed her own version of Coppélia during that time.
She remained at the School of American Ballet until her retirement in 1989. The same year she received what many ballet dancers dream about - an invitation for the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony as one of the honorees!
After retiring, she published an autobiography called Choura (her personal nickname) and even had a role (albeit a small one) in the movie The Turning Point, playing the part of a ballet teacher.
Danilova died on July 13, 1997 in New York, and was interred at Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor, New York - the very same cemetery where her longtime friend, George Balanchine, was buried.
Dunning, Jennifer (May 22, 1989). "Ballet School Gala Benefit Is a Farewell For Teacher". The New York Times.
Alexandra Danilova papers, 1954-1989 - Manuscripts and Archives, New York Public Library.
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