ASSEMBLÉ – A Famous Dancer Born In November: Maya Plisetskaya

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By Alexa Capareda and Kara Quinn Bologna, Ballet Austin Trainees

If your birthday is in November, you can be proud to say that you were born the same month as one of the most famous ballerinas in history.

Name: Maya Plisetskaya (Pronounced Pleh-set-sky-ya)

Born: November 20, 1925

Nationality: Russian

Most Famous For: The Dying Swan, which Michel Fokine originally created for Anna Pavlova and was later associated as Maya Plisetskaya’s signature role, showcasing her supple back and graceful arms. Her long arms had a fluidity that to this day remains unmatched. Her most acclaimed roles during her time as a principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet include Odette and Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and Kitri in Don Quixote. She was known for the height of her jumps, the technical strength of her dancing, and her charisma. Her bright red hair and striking looks made her a glamorous figure on and off the stage. She expressed great musicality in her dancing, and her presence guaranteed excitement.

Fun Facts:

  • Maya Plisetskaya retired from the Bolshoi Ballet at the age of sixty-five.
  • At age seventy, Maya received rave reviews for her remarkable performance of her signature The Dying Swan at New York City Hall.
  • Maya was also a talented choreographer. Her ballets Anna Karenina, The Seagull, and Lady with a Lapdog are all based on Russian literature with music especially composed by her husband, Rodion Shchedrin.
  • Once when Maya was very young, she was expelled for violating the disciplinary demands of her ballet class. Unabashed, she told her teacher that she didn’t care and would “go and sell apples.” In less than two weeks she was back in class again.

Three Degrees of Separation From Ballet Austin:

Believe it or not, someone who knows someone who knows Maya Plisetskaya is right in our midst! Preston Patterson, an apprentice in his second season with Ballet Austin, grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. At his first ballet studio, he had a teacher named Ramazon Bapov. Mr. Bapov was a retired ballet dancer from Moscow—in fact, he was once a principal dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet during the time that Maya was performing!

To learn more about Maya Plisetskaya, explore these resources:

  • Vosnesensky, Andrei. Maya Plisetskaya. Progress Publishers: 1976.
    With 175 pages and more than 100 photographs, this book is an enduring testimony to Maya’s exceptional beauty and artistic talent.
  • Maya Plisetskaya—Diva of Dance. Feat. Maya Plisetskaya, Nikolai Fadeyechev, Yuri Zhdanov. Naxos, 2006. DVD.
    This DVD contains a dozen excerpts from ballet danced by Maya and her partners, including Spartacus, Isadora, and Bolero, three ballets never before seen on DVD.
  • Maya: Portrait of Maya Plisetskaya. Dir. Dominique Delouche. Feat. Maya Plisetskaya, Maurice Bejart. VAI, 1999. DVD.
    This documentary paints a complete picture of who Maya Plisetskaya was as a dancer, a woman, and a person, paying due tribute to all the aspects of her life that made her who she is today.

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