Helene Antonova (1898-1974)

Helene Antonova (1898-1974) was married to Leon Woizikowski and was the mother of Sonia Woizikowska. Antonova was a dancer with the Diaghilev Ballets Russes and then teacher and co-owner with James Jamieson of the Wilmington Academy of the Dance in Delaware. Like her dear friend Vera Nemtchinova, Antonova studied privately with Lydia Nelidova, a graduate of the Bolshoi Ballet School and a member of the Bolshoi Company. Diaghilev recruited many of his dancers from Nelidova's school.

According to Sonia, her mother joined the Ballets Russes in 1915 together with Nemtchinova. Richard Buckle said in his book Diaghilev that because of the lack of money, Diaghilev had to loan many of his dancers to Nijinsky and Otto Kahn, the sponsor. After Diaghilev's 1916 tour of America, Nijinsky formed his own company using Diaghilev's dancers. Diaghilev thought it important to retain a small base company of his best dancers, including Antonova, to create new works for the next season.

Lena, as Antonova was called, said she witnessed the cooperative efforts -- and sometimes the battles -- between composers like Georges Auric, Darius Milhaud, Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie and Igor Stravinsky. She was present when choreographers Mikhail Fokine, Leonide Massine, and George Balanchine were creating their most famous ballets. Lena also met Sir Thomas Beecham, Jean Cocteau, Coco Chanel and Pablo Picasso. In fact, when Sonia was baptized, Pablo Picasso was her godfather.

Lena can trace her training back to Jean Noverre through Carlo Blasis, Jean Dauberval, Giovanni Lepri, and Enrico Cecchetti. Through Margaret Craske, Antony Tudor and my dearest friend Sonia Woizikowska, I can claim this heritage.

(First published January 1996)

There is no such thing as a single pirouette in classical ballet -- only chicken dancers.