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Ballet & Dance

Igor Youskevitch - The Ballet Roamer
 
Igor Youskevitch was born in the small village of Pyriatin, near Poltava, Ukraine, then - part of the Russian Empire, to the family of a judge. After the Russian Revolution, the family had to run for their lives, emigrating to Belgrade, now Serbia. 
 
Unlike most other famous ballet dancers, Youskevitch did not start his dancing career from early childhood, but only at the age of 20, having first received gymnastic training and graduated with a degree in engineering from the Belgrade University!  
In 1932, the Yugoslavian ballerina Zenia Grunt saw him at a gymnastics tournament and persuaded him to take up ballet dancing as a career. Thanks to his inborn talent, extraordinary physical condition and good teachers - including Olga Preobrajenska, Anatole Vilzak and Alexandra Fedorova - in the same year he made his first appearance on the ballet stage in Paris and soon joined Les Ballets de Paris! Only five years later he joined Le Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo under the direction of Leonid Massine, and toured with them in the late-1930s... 
 
In early 40s, when the ballet company was performing in Sydney, he decided to remain in Australia, where he had a successful career in several companies.
 
In 1944 Youskevitch immigrated to the United States and joined the US Navy to fight against the Japanese. After the war and two years of arduous efforts to get back into dancing shape, he finally managed to join the American Ballet Theatre in New York!
 
Igor partnered with Alicia Alonso, with whom he had his greatest successes, appearing both on the ballet stage, as well as in many Hollywood films and on television. His greatest asset was his unique blend of gymnastic athleticism with ballet artistry, best demonstrated by his aerialist sequences for Gene Kelly's 1956 ballet film Invitation to the Dance. 
 
Soon afterwards he returned to his ballet alma mater, Le Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, this time - as its artistic director and first dancer. In 1962 he retired from dancing and operated his own ballet school in New York with his wife, dancer Anna Scarpova... 
 
With Anna, they had a daughter, Maria Youskevitch, who would also become a ballet dancer, a soloist with American Ballet Theatre and  ballerina with Maryland Ballet. Maria currently teaches at American Repertory Ballet's Princeton Ballet School.
 
Several years later he worked as the director of the dance program at the University of Texas at Austin, and as the Artistic Director of the renown New York International Ballet Competition (NYIBC). It was during his years at NYIBC that he discovered, nurtured and showed to the world many a talented dancer, enriching the ballet world with his experience and unique athletic-centered style.
 
Igor Youskevitch died of old age in his New York home on June 13, 1994.
 
Sources:
In Memoriam – Igor Youskevitch at the University of Texas at Austin
Youskevitch, Igor (1912–1994) - Australia Dancing

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