Anna Pavlovna Pavlova was a Russian prima ballerina of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. She was a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev, Pavlova is most recognized for the creation of the role The Dying Swan and, with her own company, became the first ballerina to tour ballet around the world. Anna Pavlovna Pavlova was born on February 12,1881 in Ligovo, Saint Petersburg and her mother, Lyubov Feodorovna, was a laundress. When she was three years old her mother married Matvey Pavlov, who adopted her and gave her his surname. Pavlovas passion for the art of ballet was ignited when her mother took her to a performance of Marius Petipas original production of The Sleeping Beauty at the Imperial Maryinsky Theater, the lavish spectacle made an impression on Pavlova. When she was nine, her mother took her to audition for the renowned Imperial Ballet School, because of her youth, and what was considered her sickly appearance, she was rejected, but at age 10 in 1891 she was accepted. She appeared for the first time on stage in Marius Petipas Un conte de fées, young Pavlovas years of training were difficult. Classical ballet did not come easily to her and her severely arched feet, thin ankles, and long limbs clashed with the small, compact body favoured for the ballerina of the time. Her fellow students taunted her with such nicknames as The broom, undeterred, Pavlova trained to improve her technique. She would practice and practice after learning a step, in 1898, she entered the classe de perfection of Ekaterina Vazem, former Prima ballerina of the Saint Petersburg Imperial Theatres. During her final year at the Imperial Ballet School, she performed roles with the principal company. She graduated in 1899 at age 18, chosen to enter the Imperial Ballet a rank ahead of corps de ballet as a coryphée and she made her official début at the Mariinsky Theatre in Pavel Gerdts Les Dryades prétendues. Her performance drew praise from the critics, particularly the great critic, such a style in many ways harked back to the time of the romantic ballet and the great ballerinas of old. Pavlova performed in various variations, pas de deux and pas de trois in such ballets as La Camargo, Le Roi Candaule, Marcobomba. She tried desperately to imitate the renowned Pierina Legnani, Prima ballerina assoluta of the Imperial Theaters, once during class she attempted Legnanis famous fouettés, causing her teacher Pavel Gerdt to fly into a rage. It is positively more than I can bear to see the pressure such steps put on your delicate muscles, I beg you to never again try to imitate those who are physically stronger than you. You must realize that your daintiness and fragility are your greatest assets and you should always do the kind of dancing which brings out your own rare qualities instead of trying to win praise by mere acrobatic tricks. Pavlova rose through the ranks quickly, becoming a favorite of the old maestro Petipa and it was from Petipa himself that Pavlova learned the title role in Paquita, Princess Aspicia in The Pharaohs Daughter, Queen Nisia in Le Roi Candaule, and Giselle
Anna Pavlova, ca. 1905.
Students of the Imperial Ballet School in Marius Petipa's Un conte de fées. A ten-year-old Anna Pavlova participated in this work in her first ever ballet performance. She is photographed here on the left holding the birdcage. St. Petersburg, 1891.
Anna Pavlova in the Fokine/Saint-Saëns The Dying Swan, Saint Petersburg, 1905
Photographic postcard of Anna Pavlova as the Princess Aspicia in Alexander Gorsky's version of the Petipa/Pugni The Pharaoh's Daughter for the Bolshoi Theatre. Moscow, 1908