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Ballet & Dance

Natalia Makarova - The Finest of Them All
 
Natalia Romanovna Makarova was born in Leningrad, now Saint Petersburg. Unlike most other famous ballerinas, Natalia found interest for ballet relatively late in her youth - she auditioned and was accepted into the Leningrad Choreographic School (formerly the Imperial Ballet School) at the age of 12, when most of the other students in her class were only 10... 
 
This, however, did not stop or even slightly discourage Makarova from aiming for the top! She became a permanent member of the legendary Kirov Ballet in Leningrad after just four years of training, and achieved the prima ballerina status in four more years! 
 
But very soon her life took the turn in the same direction as had been the case with many Soviet dissident artists before her: discontent and frustration with the overly conservative "cultural authorities" made her leave her old life behind and defect while on a tour with the Kirov ballet in London. Soon afterwards she moved from London to New York and began performing with both the American Ballet Theatre in New York and the Royal Ballet of London, eager to expand her choreography with more modern dances she had been hoping so much to try!
 
In 1976, Makarova married the famous industrialist and millionaire Edward Karkar. The marriage, unlike many concluded between immigrant Russian artists and the American rich, proved to be a happy one: the couple had a son, Andrei, and parted only with Karkar's death in December 2013 at the respectable age of 81.
 
Makarova, having gained creative freedom, excelled in a variety of very different roles, both modern and - more frequently - classical, including her signature title role in Giselle. In addition, she never shied away from Broadway productions, winning multiple awards for her performances  including a Tony Award. 
 
In 1989, with Perestroika in its final stages and the Berlin wall torn down, she returned to the USSR, reuniting with her relatives, and to her home theater of the Kirov Ballet, reuniting with her former colleagues and teachers...
 
After a string of successful performances in Saint Petersburg, she retired from dancing due to multiple accumulating injuries, especially to her knees (the unfortunate result of a very busy schedule and extreme physical demands), donating her dancing shoes and costumes to the Kirov Museum. 
 
Makarova, not willing to say goodbye to ballet, switched to choreographing performances for other ballet troupes, and has been staging Swan Lake, La Bayadère, and Sleeping Beauty for theaters across the world.
 
In 2012 she, together with the legendary Led Zeppelin and David Letterman, was awarded the prestigeous Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contribution to American culture.
 
Sources:
"Biography: Natalia Makarova". American Ballet Theatre. 2007.
Clarke, Mary and Crisp, Clement 1981. The History of Dance. Orbit, London
 

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