Olga Preobrajenska (1870-1962)
St. Petersburg's best loved prima ballerina, (a rank she achieved in 1900) was Olga Preobrajenska. The audiences loved her sparkling personality and her brilliant technique. Preobrajenska appeared in 700 productions in addition to several tours.
Preobrajenska was born in 1870 in St.Petersburg and was trained at the Imperial Ballet Academy. She graduated in 1889 and joined the Maryinsky Theatre. In 1896 she was made a soloist, and four years later, prima ballerina. That was a great jump because at that time prima ballerina meant that she was the top dancer in the company. She dominated the ballet stage for the first two decades of the twentieth century.
Many dancers of my age know Preobrajenska as a teacher. She started teaching in 1914 while she continued to dance. After leaving the Soviet Union in 1921 she taught in Milan, London, Buenos Aires, and Berlin before she settled permanently in Paris in 1923. I know many people who have studied with her, including our friend and teacher Nansi Clement.
Olga continued to teach until she was 90 years old. Nearly every famous dancer of the time was attracted to her at "Studio Wacker." She retired in 1960 and died two years later.
(First published June 1994)