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Ballet & Dance

Tamara Toumanova – The Black Pearl of Russian Ballet
 
Tamara Toumanova was born in Siberia, while her mother, the Georgian princess Eugenia Tumanishvili was fleeing Georgia and searching for her husband Vladimir Khassidovitch - the couple became separated during the Russian Revolution. They reunited when Tamara was 18 months old, and the family made a long journey to Paris via Vladivostok, in the far East of Russia, then Shanghai (China), then Cairo (Egypt).
 
After moving to Paris, the little Toumanova started taking ballet lessons from Olga Preobrajenska, and at the age of only six, ballerina Anna Pavlova invited the girl to perform in one of her gala concerts! And at ten Tamara made her debut at the Paris Opera - as a child étoile in L'Éventail de Jeanne, to the roaring applause of the astonished and delighted audience.
 
In 1931, when Toumanova was just twelve years old, George Balanchine saw her in ballet classes and immediately signed her up her for de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.
 
Together with Toumanova, Irina Baronova and Tatiana Riabouchinska, the three girls came to be called "baby ballerinas" and celebrated as young prodigies. She herself came was dubbed The Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet" because of her dark complexion and raven-black hair.
 
In Ballet Russe, Balanchine created the role of the "Young Girl" for Toumanova in his ballet Cotillon and had her star in his Concurrence and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Léonide Massine also worked with Toumanova, creating many new roles for the talented girl, including the part of Top in his Jeux d'Enfants. 
 
In 1936, while Toumanova was performing in Chicago, the 18-year-old Burr Tillstrom went backstage to meet her after a ballet, and the youngsters became friends. Later, he showed her a puppet he had made and she, surprised by his revelation, exclaimed, "Kukla" (Russian for "puppet"). In 1947, Burr Tillstrom would create one of the very first television shows for children, titled Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
 
Between 1944 and 1970 Toumanova worked in Hollywood, appearing in six films, invariably playing dancers. Her feature film debut was in the war film Days of Glory, in 1944 - the same year she married Casey Robinson, the producer and screenwriter of the film. Unfortunately, the couple was childless, and a divorce followed eleven years later. She never married again...
 
Tamara appeared in several popular films, including Tonight We Sing, as the Russian prima ballerina Anna Pavlova; the musical Deep in My Heart, as the French dancer Gaby Deslys; the famous Invitation to the Dance with Gene Kelly;  Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Torn Curtain; and Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.
 
Tamara Toumanova died from undisclosed causes in Santa Monica, California aged 77, having donated her costumes to the Vaganova Choreographic Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, shortly before death. 
 
Sources: 
Alexander Vassiliev The Black Pearl of the Russian ballet. Tamara Toumanova - Etudes on fashion and style
Людмила Ильинична Лопато, Волшебное зеркало воспоминаний, 2003 г. 
Apology for dancing - Rayner Heppenstall, Faber and Faber Ltd (1936)
 

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