Tamara Karsavina – Firebird of Russian ballet
She was loved, respected and admired. She was always away from any kind of intrigue – because in her youth had decided to devote all of herself to His Majesty the Arts.
Tamara Karsavina, Firebird of Russian Ballet, one of the brightest of its stars was born on March 9, 1885, in an intellectual family in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire. Her father Platon Karsavin was a dancer at the Mariinsky Theatre, and also taught at the Drama School. Tamara was a sister of the historian and philosopher Leo Karsavin. Six-year old girl knew her main passion was the theater. Supported by her mother, Tamara began preparing to enter the Theatre School.
In 1902 she graduated from the Imperial Theatre School, and then joined the Mariinsky Theatre.
Karsavina quickly achieved the status of a prima ballerina and performed leading roles in ballets of the classical repertoire – “Giselle”, “Sleeping Beauty “, “Nutcracker”, “Swan Lake”, “Carnival”, etc.
The first major success brought Karsavina cooperation with Mikhail Fokine. As one of the leading dancers of the Mariinsky Theatre, Fokine began to try himself as a choreographer.
But the real glory of Karsavina linked to the Russian ballet seasons in Paris, began in 1909. The success of this season had surpassed all expectations. A wonderfully organic Karsavina duet with Vaslav Nijinsky was the ornament of all the programs of the season.
The day after the premiere of “Firebird” in French newspapers appeared reviews in which the names of the performers were written with an article: “LA KARSAVINA”, “La Nijinsky”, which meant a special admiration and respect. Paris reviewer wrote that the scene “Karsavina like dancing flames, in the light and shadows that inhabit languid bliss… her dancing – is the most gentle tones and pastel drawing air”.
France adored her, and the whole of Europe fell in love with her. After the phenomenal success in Paris Karsavina heaped offerings, England, Italy, America and Australia would like to see her.
Karsavina was a leading ballerina of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes from its beginning in 1909 until 1922 and became the first ballerina to dance in the so-called Le Corsaire Pas de Deux in 1915.
She was one of the founders of modern British ballet.
Karsavina wrote a book of memoirs “Theatre Street”, a few books on ballet, including the benefits of classical dance.
In the early 1920s ballerina appeared in small roles in several silent films made in Germany and the UK – including in the film “The Way to the strength and beauty” (1925) with Leni Riefenstahl.
Karsavina was one of the main characters in Agatha Christie’s “The Mysterious Mr Quin”.
In the television series “Empire under attack” Ilze Liepa played the role of Tamara Karsavina.
The great ballerina died aged 93, on May 26, 1978 in London, UK.
Karsavina was adored by the famous Don Juan of St. Petersburg, Carl Mannerheim – the future great statesman of Finland. The famous Russian doctor Sergei Botkin was ready to leave his wife to be with Karsavina. Choreograph Fokine made her a proposal three times, and each time she denied them.
Karsavina married a poor nobleman Vasily Mukhin, captivated by his kindness, knowledge of music and a passion for ballet. But the biggest love was still waiting for her…
One day at a reception at the British Embassy, she became acquainted with Henry Bruce, head of the Office of the Embassy. Bruce was desperately in love with her, stole Tamara from the family.
And Tamara was faithful and loving wife of a British diplomat and good mother of their son Nikita. They lived together for more than thirty years.
Mikhail Kuzmin and Anna Akhmatova devoted poems to famous ballerina.
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