May 23, 1917 - May 24, 2000
Tatiana Riabouchinska was a Russian-American prima ballerina and teacher, famous for being one of the three "Baby Ballerinas" of the legendary George Balanchine's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the 1930s, as well as for training a number of successful dancers and even some Hollywood celebrities.
Tatiana Riabouchinska – The «Baby Ballerina»
Tatiana Mikhailovna Riabouchinska was born in Moscow as Tatyana Mikhaylovna Riabouchinskaya a few months before the October Revolution in 1917.
Because her father was a personal banker to the Tsar's family, after the Revolution the whole family, including baby Tatiana, were put under house arrest by the Bolsheviks, but managed to escape to France with the help of their former servants!
In Paris, still being a young child, she started taking ballet lessons from Alexandre Volinine and Mathilde Kschessinska. The results quickly followed: at fourteen, she was invited by Nikita Balieff to his vaudeville troupe, Le Théâtre de la Chauve-Souris. After just a couple of performances, she catches the eye of the famous ballet master George Balanchine, who invited her to the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo! Soon she and two other young ballerinas in the company became known as the Baby Ballerinas.
Riabouchinska remained with the Ballet Russe until 1942, creating half a dozen of her own roles and performing and another half a dozen roles created specifically for her and the two other Baby Ballerinas. In particular, the famous dancer and choreographer Michel Fokine, who joined the company in late 30s, created for Tatiana the roles of the Golden Cockerel in Le Coq d'Or (1937), the title role of Cendrillon (1938), and the Florentine Beauty in Paganini (1939).
In 1943 she married David Lichine, and the two artists embarked on a joint career as free agents, dancing and choreographing for many companies in the United States, England and, as the World War II in Europe intensified, in countries farther away from the fighting, like Argentina. They had one daughter, Tanica Lichine.
In the United States, Riabouchinska appeared on Broadway in an unsuccessful operetta titled Polonaise (1945), choreographed by Lichine to the music of Chopin. She also appeared in a Hollywood film, Make Mine Music (1946), in which she and her husband danced to his choreography in the "Two Silhouettes" scene. Throughout the many years the couple spent on stage, they remained one of the ballet's most admired and beloved couples.
In 1953, the couple retired to Los Angeles, where they spent most of their time creating and nurturing their own dance academy in Beverly Hills. They also created and directed several ballet troupes.
David Lichine died in 1972, but his wife continued to teach dancers, including a number of Hollywood celebrities who came to her to find a way of using their body more effectively on the movie set.
Tatiana died in her Los Angeles home, leaving behind a legend about "the most unusual ballerina" of the American theater.
Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982).
Vicente García-Márques, "Riabouchinska, Tatiana," in International Dictionary of Ballet (Detroit: St. James Press, 1990)