Lubov Egorova (1880-1972)

I feel that every teacher in my dance career has continued the tradition of ballet that they learned as a student. My beloved teacher and friend, Sonia Wojcikowska, was my teacher for many years and I think that I teach very much like her. Although I teach the Cecchetti method, the pace of my class comes from Sonia. I bring this to your attention because she was the protegee of Lubov Egorova, therefore I feel a kinship with this famous dancer/teacher.

Lubov Egorova, Princess Nikita Troubetska, was born in St. Petersberg on August 8th, 1880. She graduated from the Imperial Ballet Academy in 1898, the same year as her classmate Mikhail Fokine, and joined the Maryinsky Theatre. Egorova's progress at the Maryinsky was slow--she had to compete with ballerinas like Matilda Kschessinska, Olga Preobrajenska, Anna Pavlova, Vera Trefilova, Julia Sedova, and Agrippina Vaganova. Yet in 1912 she was promoted to ballerina, and pictures of her beautiful legs were often seen in the St. Petersberg periodicals. Egorova could execute easily the most daring pirouettes and renverses, but never with the dazzling speed that balletomanes had come to enjoy. It was said, that she was "a candle, that gives light but does not warm you." Egorova was a quaint bird in a flock of brilliant peacocks. Petipa coached her, but never thought of her as more than a good soloist. Can you imagine being told by Fokine that you are too submississive, benign, and reliable? After Nicolas Legat succeeded Petipa, he used Egorova as Myrtha in "Giselle." This brought her great praise, and to the attention of Diaghilev in 1918, who brought her to Paris to dance Princess Florine in "The Sleeping Beauty." Egorova had the chance to be partnered by Vaslav Nijinsky, and said of him "He inspired me by urging me to catch up with his artistry."

Egorova went on to dance all the leading roles for Diaghilev, but too late in her career, although she could hold her own with all the younger dancers. She had married Prince Troubetsky, and began teaching in the company as well as in her own school. Egorova founded a small company called Ballets de la Jeunesse in 1937. Nansi Clement, many years later, studied with Egorova.

After the deaths of her son and husband, her fortune was lost through mismanagement, and she ended her years in a home for the aged and indigent. She died in 1972. Hilde, a great beauty, was first the mistress of Tzar Nicolas II, and later the morganatic wife (a Morganatic wife is not of royal blood and can not acquire the rank of her husband, and her children are not in line to succeed to the title) of his cousin, the Grand Duke Andrei (who she married in Paris in 1921). Her elegant house became famous-- from its balcony Lenin addressed the crowds when he returned to Russia from exile to take power in 1917.

Kschessinaka also danced with Ballets Russes in 1911, but most of her dancing was in Russia. In 1920 she left her homeland for Paris, and in 1929 opened a school. When she was 64 she performed for a charity event at London's Covent Garden Opera House. Many of her students went on to become the great dancers of a new generation.

(First published August 1994)

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