Mathilda Kschessinskaya – Generalissimo of Russian Ballet
Russian ballerina Mathilda Kschessinskaya died on December 6, 1971 in Paris, just a few months before her centennial anniversary. Her life was like an irresistible dance, which to this day is surrounded by legends and intriguing details. Always surrounded by scandal, the ballerina adored roulette, diamonds, caviar and men, particularly when named Romanov.
Awesome Mathilda was born on August 19, 1872 in Ligovo, 9 miles west of St Petersburg. Her father, Felix Kschesinsky was a consummate performer of Mazurkas – Nicholas I’s favorite dance. The Emperor invited him to St. Petersburg from Warsaw together with the other dancers. In St. Petersburg, Felix married ballerina Yulia Dominskaya, ballet dancer Leda’s widow. From the first marriage she had five children and gave birth to four more. Mathilda-Maria was the youngest.
By the way, Mathilda’s father was a talented dancer. And the baby inherited a priceless gift – not just dance, but live to dance, fill it with unbridled passion, pain, enchanting dreams and hope.
The girl loved the theater and could watch rehearsals for hours. Therefore, there was nothing surprising in the fact that she entered the Imperial Theatre School. And soon she became one of the top students.
Ten years later, on March 23, 1890, after the young ballerina’s performance Emperor Alexander III said, “Mademoiselle! Be an adornment and glory of our ballet!”
And then there was a gala dinner with the participation of all members of the imperial family. That day, Mathilda met the future emperor of Russia, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich.
With her single minded obsession with the Romanovs, and Nicholas in particular, Mathilda wrote in her diary at that time, “He will be mine”. And he was. This was love! Mathilda was in love with Nicholas. And he was just a friend for her. Or not?
It seemed Mathilda enjoyed her happiness, being fully aware that her love was doomed to fail. And when she wrote in her memoirs that “priceless Nicky” loved only her, and marriage with Princess Alix of Hesse was based only on the sense of duty, of course, she was mistaken. Every woman wants to love and be loved.
Kschessinskaya’s life was closely linked with the imperial family. Her good friend and patron was Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, whom Nicholas II asked to “look after” Mathilda after their parting. Grand Duke took care of Mathilda for twenty years. One of the grandsons of Alexander II, Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich became her husband (he was 6 years younger) and the father of her son – His Serene Highness Prince Vladimir Romanovsky – Krasinskiy.
Despite the stable position in the theater, Mathilda constantly improved her technique. Since 1898 she attended private lessons from the famous teacher Enrico Cecchetti. So, she became the first Russian ballerina who performed 32 fouettes in a row on the stage.
44-year-old Mathilda performed with a new partner Pyotr Vladimirov, whom she fell in love with. Maybe it was one of the strongest passions in her life. He was very handsome, elegant and she was 21 years older.
Her husband learned about Mathilda’s passion and challenged Vladimirov to a duel, which took place in Paris, in the Bois de Boulogne. Grand Duke shot Vladimirov’s nose, and he had to do plastic surgery.
You know, Kschessinskaya could dance for a long time, but the revolution of 1917 put an end to her career.
Mathilda Feliksovna took an active part in the development of two modern hospitals. She didn’t work as a nurse. She gave people a holiday. Mathilda organized a trip to her villa in Strelna for wounded soldiers, invited doctors and soldiers to the theater, wrote letters, decorated rooms in the hospital with flowers, or just dance on her toes without pointe shoes. In hospital, she was awarded loud applause. Maybe the same she heard after her performance in London’s Covent Garden, when 64 -year-old Kschesinskaya easily and flawlessly performed her legendary Russian. And she performed it 18 times, it was unthinkable for a prim British public.
In February 1920 she and her family left Russia, they sailed from Novorossiysk to Constantinople and settled in France. In Paris, she opened her own ballet studio.
While living at the Villa Alam Mathilda Feliksovna was fascinated by the roulette games. Together with other renowned Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova they spent evenings at a table in Monte Carlo casino. For her constant bet on the same number, Kschesinskaya was nicknamed Madame Seventeen.
Great ballerina died on December 6, 1971 and was buried at the Russian cemetery Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois in the same grave with her husband and son.