Russian ballet divas of the early 20th century as you’ve never seen before (PHOTOS)

Tamara Karsavina.

Tamara Karsavina.

E.O. Hoppé Estate Collection/Provided by OOO “Iskusstvo – XXI vek” publishing house
Rehearsal and studio photos of Mathilde Kschessinska, Anna Pavlova, and Tamara Karsavina published in Russia for the first time.

A century ago, Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was the major sensation of  Europe’s cultural life, even sparking a legendary mass brawl at a genteel Parisian theater. Throughout the 1910s and 20s, as the company’s permanent lensman, German-born British photographer Emil Otto Hoppé immortalized  the Russian dancers both on and off stage. All the outstanding Russian ballerinas of those years frequented the photographer’s studio, including Mathilde Kschessinska, Anna Pavlova, and Tamara Karsavina. Part of his vast, precious collection has now been published in Russia in the album “101 Photography” by the Iskusstvo–XXI Vek publishing house.

1. Mathilde Kschessinska in the role of Artemis, 1912

Russian Emperor Alexander III personally introduced the star of St. Petersburg’s ballet school Mathilde Kschessinska to his son Nicholas, the future last tsar, and soon she became his passion. Their love affair is shown in the Russian movie Mathilde.  

2. Tamara Karsavina as Zhar-Ptitsa (Firebird), 1911

Karsavina was one of Hoppé’s favorite dancers. In 1902, she graduated from the Imperial Theater School and joined the Mariinsky Theater.

3. Tamara Karsavina as Zhar-Ptitsa and Adolf Bolm as Ivan Tsarevich, 1911.

The ballerina toured extensively in Russia and Europe, and Parisian art critics wrote that she was like "a dancing flame on stage."

4. Lubov Chernysheva as Zobeid in Shahrazad, 1920

Chernysheva graduated from the Imperial Theater School of St. Petersburg, and from 1912 was one of the official dancers of Sergei Diaghilev’s troupe.

5. Lubov Chernysheva as Cleopatra, 1918

On leaving the Diaghilev company, Chernysheva became the soloist of the Monte Carlo Ballet. Together with her husband, she taught dance in the UK and Europe and had no desire to return to Russia.

6. Vera Fokine as Young Beotian, 1914

The wife of the famous choreographer Michel Fokine was the star of the Mariinsky Theater. In 1918, soon after the Russian Revolution, they left the country forever. At first, the Fokines lived in Europe, but in 1919 relocated to the U.S., where they opened a ballet school.

7. Anna Pavlova and Lavrenty Novikov during a rehearsal of the ballet The Pharaoh’s Daughter, 1923

Anna Pavlova graduated from the St.Petersburg Theater School, starring in La Bayadere and Giselle along the way, before performing at the Mariinsky Theater. She traversed the globe before air travel! She lit up stages across the U.S., India, Australia, Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, and Cuba. In Australia and New Zealand, there’s even a cake named after her

8. Anna Pavlova performs solo Japanese dance, 1923

Most of Hoppé’s photographs were taken in his studios in London and New York. The collection features non-staged photos too, including some of Pavlova’s open-air rehearsals. 

9. Olga Spessivtseva in the role of Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), 1921

Olga Spessivtseva started her career at the Mariinsky Theater in 1913, but received the title of prima ballerina only after the October Revolution. She is said to have attracted the attention of those around her with her unique appearance, and wowed audiences with her graceful portrayals of Giselle and Esmeralda.

10. Lydia Lopukhova as the Ballerina Doll, 1919

Lydia was born into a family of ballet dancers, and trained at the Imperial Ballet School. She joined the Ballets Russes in 1910 and became famous for her roles in Stravinsksy’sThe Firebird, as well as her dances with the inimitable Vaslav Nijinsky. After the end of her ballet career, Lopukhova became a BBC presenter and appeared in a number of acting roles.

Read more about Russian ballet divas of the past>>> 

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