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Tamara Karsavina – Firebird of Russian ballet

Firebird karsavina

Ballerina Tamara Karsavina in the ballet “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky’s music in the costume designs by Leon Bakst for 1910.

Tamara Karsavina was loved, respected and admired. You know, she was always away from any kind of intrigue. In her youth pretty girl had decided to devote all of herself to His Majesty the Arts. During her long life she experienced many worries and troubles, difficulties and trials, but grateful audience remembered her as a talented performer.
Firebird of Russian Ballet, one of the brightest of its stars was born on March 9, 1885, into 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.
Immediately after graduation in 1902, Tamara joined the Mariinsky Theater, where Matilda Kshesinskaya, a prima ballerina and a dance teacher, was fond of her. However, another talented performer, Anna Pavlova, disliked the young dancer. Perhaps Pavlova saw in the beginning artist her rival and competitor.

Awesome Karsavina quickly achieved the status of a prima ballerina. By the way, she performed leading roles in ballets of the classical repertoire, including Giselle, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Carnival, etc.
However, later she was bitterly disappointed, Tamara was diagnosed with malaria. The mother took her daughter and went to Italy to treatment. The girl fully recovered and was able to take lessons from the famous Catherine Beretta. Returning to St. Petersburg, she began to dance even better. The royal family noted the performance of the artist and sent gifts for her.
Cooperation with Mikhail Fokine brought Karsavina the first major success. 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. Wonderful duet of Karsavina and Vaslav Nijinsky was the decoration of all the programs of the season.
The day after the premiere of Firebird reviews in French newspapers appeared in which the names of the performers were written with an article: LA KARSAVINA, La Nijinsky. This meant a special admiration and respect. Paris reviewer wrote that “Karsavina is like dancing flames, in the light and shadows that inhabit languid bliss… her dancing is the gentlest tones and pastel drawing air”.
France adored her, and the whole of Europe fell in love with her. After the phenomenal success in Paris, England, Italy, America and Australia would like to see her.
Karsavina was the leading ballerina of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes from its beginning in 1909 until 1922. Moreover, she became the first ballerina to dance in the so-called Le Corsaire Pas de Deux in 1915.
In addition, she was one of the founders of modern British ballet. Without leaving the ballet, the young woman performed in the English dance ensemble Ballet Ramber and performed solo compositions in La Scala.
Furthermore, 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.
To tell the truth, 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 on May 26, 1978 in London, UK, at the age of 93.
Mikhail Kuzmin and Anna Akhmatova devoted poems to famous ballerina.

Personal life
Outstanding 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. Choreographer Fokine made her marriage 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 and stole Tamara from the family.
And Tamara was a faithful and loving wife of a British diplomat and a good mother of their son Nikita. They lived together for more than thirty years.
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Tamara Karsavina – Firebird of Russian ballet