Marga

Ballerinas/danseurs who met tragic ends in real life

93 posts in this topic

Yes, Marga, I have a very faint recollection of Maria Fris, she was lovely.  I was very briefly at the Hamburg Opera end 1959. Very sad, as I have heard, she didnt fall accidentally, she threw herself down.

Oh my goodness! That is sad. No wonder the wording of the notice was the way it was. I thought the reference to "recurrent ankle trouble" meant that she somehow twisted her ankle causing her to lose her footing. Maybe when the announcement was published, the reason for her demise hadn't been made known yet to the public. So, maybe she had a moment of madness brought on by depression, if I may speculate as to what could make her do such a thing...?

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It's so important to remember these people and to avoid the wasteful loss of other lives, but to take Emma Livry as an example, isn't it sad and ironic for a talented dancer to have her death to be the thing that defined her life? Is that all she is to be remembered for?

Just wanted to acknowledge Livry with this quote:

"[Le Papillon] was also the triumph of the unfortunate Emma Livry, who was to die at the age of twenty only a few months later, on July 26, 1863, from burns sustained during a rehearsal of La Muta di Portici, when her tutu caught fire from a proscenium light. She was a thin, rather plain girl, whose success was due to her technical and artistic gifts alone. The critics wrote of her that 'her steps would have left no imprint on the flowers.' Commenting on her favourite pupil's admirable performance, Taglioni said, 'It is true that I never saw myself dance, but I must have danced like her!' She gave poor Emma a photograph bearing the famous inscription: 'Make the public forget me, but do not forget me yourself.'"

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Make the public forget me, but do not forget me yourself.

The utter humility of that quote is so touching and makes me believe that Taglioni must have been a truly extraordinary (selfless) artist. :wub: Thanks for that, Hans.

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Having discovered this old thread through doing a search it reminded me of a story I had heard about a ballerina living in New York who was killed when a ceiling fell on her. I did an internet search and found her name: Miriam Rosa Toigo d'Angeli. She was a 39 year old Brazilian ballerina who was killed on March 12, 1990 in an Ansonia café called Croissant & Co. at Broadway and 74th St. in a freak accident when the ceiling collapsed. She had popped in for a coffee after her daily advanced dance class at Steps 74 close by. The tons of debris that fell on her caused asphyxiation and compression of the neck and chest. Miriam Toigo had studied in Russia at the Kirov School.

The Joinville Dance Festival has a special trophy named in her honor:

http://www.festivaldedanca.com.br/site/ing...regulamento.asp

Here are some excerpts from a Newsday article from March 14, 1990 by Alison Carper and Joseph A. Gambardello :

"Born in Brazil to an Italian father and a Russian Jewish mother, d'Angeli studied dance in the Soviet Union and performed there professionally before coming to New York in the early 1980s, friends said.

In this country, she had danced for the Metropolitan Opera and in December performed in the USA Ballet's national tour of "The Nutcracker."

When d'Angeli was not dancing professionally or working as a translator or tour guide to pay bills - she spoke seven languages - she practiced nearly every day at Steps 74, a dance school less than a block from Croissant & Co., on the ground floor of the landmark Ansonia Hotel..."

"Before coming to New York, d'Angeli had studied dance in the Soviet Union after winning a scholarship with the Kirov State Ballet Group, her friends said. From 1975 until 1980 she was a "soloist" with the troupe and toured with the company in Brazil. "At a very young age, she was found to be a very great talent," said Bank. "She has a celebrity status in Brazil to this day."

But, after a family visit to Brazil a decade ago, Soviet officials for some reason denied d'Angeli re-entry, her friends said.

In Brazil, she danced with the Sao Paulo Municipal Theater and had the lead female role in such ballets as "Giselle," "Don Quixote" and "Le Sacre du Printemps."

In the U.S. Toigo D'Angeli had danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and was planning on returning to Brazil to dance and teach.

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article written by James Barron on March 14th, 1990:

"She was there by chance. And, in a way, she was in New York by chance. A friend, Elizabeth Prorwitsch, said Ms. Toigo-D'Angeli had come to this country for a holiday and was not allowed to go back to the Soviet Union, apparently because of her involvement with a Soviet dancer.

''It was one of the dancers she was very much in love with,'' Ms. Prorwitsch said. ''One of the prominent ones, I can't remember his name.''

Ms. Prorwitsch said that Soviet authorities apparently were determined to break up the romance at all costs, even if it meant leaving Ms. Toigo-D'Angeli stranded in a strange city.

''New York wasn't easy for her,'' said another friend, Jennifer Bank. ''She struggled, but she loved it.'' Her one-bedroom apartment was at the top of the stairs in a five-story walkup at 327 East 88th Street. It was filled with dance photographs - and then there were the scrapbooks, the superintendent's wife, Maria De Bono, said.

Ms. Bank said that Ms. Toigo-D'Angeli had danced for the Metropolitan Opera and with a ballet troupe in Chicago, but had ''her best years'' in the Soviet Union, with the Kirov Ballet from 1975 to 1980.Ms. Bank said.

In a letter of recommendation in 1985, Donald Mahler, who was the director of ballet at the Met at the time, called her ''a first-rate exponent of Russian dance.''

Another tragic dancer was Margarita Perkun-Bebeziche who was killed in a car accident with her husband on August 6, 1981 at the age of 24 when she had just won the gold medal at the 1981 Moscow International Ballet Competition in front of such judges as Galina Ulanova, Maya Plisetskaya and Robert Joffrey. The grand prix went to Irek Mukhamedhov. Another gold medal winner that year was the 17 year old Amanda McKerrow. Ulanova was deeply impressed with Perkun-Bebeziche and felt that she brought much of the passion and conviction to dance that she and others of her generation tried to bring to the art.

McKerrow, Janis Pikieris and Perkun-Bebeziche can be seen in the VHS release "Holiday of Ballet" a documentary on the fourth Moscow International Ballet Competition on a Kultur VHS release. Perkun-Bebeziche was seen in several of her winning performances with a long limbed elegant but also deeply emotive plastique grounded in good classical technique. I wondered what happened to her afterwards what she did in Russia but could find little or nothing about her.

Googling on the internet showed several mentions of her name including a few memorial web pages which told me of her tragic end. She had just returned from a tour of Peru with her home company, the Moscow Classical Ballet, and was riding in a car with her husband returning to Moscow from a short vacation by the Sea of Azov. In the early morning hours of August 6, 1981 just two months after her gold medal win, the car was struck by a truck on the Moscow-Volgagrad highway. Her husband Valery who was driving the car survived as did their poodle but Margarita was instantly killed. The truck driver was later found to be at fault for the accident. Very sad.

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Isadora Duncan, IMO Nureyev (and the drugs he took to "help" him w/ Aids though hurt him more), Fernando Bujones

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... but there have been others, like Ivy Clear of an earlier Joffrey era, who retired in her twenties, and could not tolerate to be around or even talk about dancing.

To add a ray of sunshine to a sad though interesting thread, Ivy Clear is whole and well, teaching ballet and directing a small ballet company in Maine. Her students adore her as a teacher, friend, mentor, and for her sharp wit and humor. Thankfully, time heals.

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Thanks for the update on Ms. Clear, Snowbound. The thread definitely can use a ray (or more) of sunshine. Good to know that ultimately, she found a way to thrive in ballet.

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The young Mariinsky dancer Vladimir Stepanov -- creator of the notation system that has allowed the reconstructions of so many old ballets -- died at the age of 30 in 1896.

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Mathilde Kschessinska, who died penniless in France in 1971. It's not just that she died in such unfortunate circumstances, but also that she never worked as a coach or ballet mistress. She had a school, but like many great dancers was not a very good teacher. One thinks of the imperial-era dancers as belonging to another age in a dusty text, but the 1950's and 60's were producing dancers who are teaching now. Imagine what she could have given us, even if it were just memories of Petipa, had she been consulted in a more useful way.

I also see in Imperial Dancer that Olga Preobrajenska's "belongings were sold (without her agreement or even consultation) during her lifetime."

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Mathilde Kschessinska, who died penniless in France in 1971. It's not just that she died in such unfortunate circumstances, but also that she never worked as a coach or ballet mistress. She had a school, but like many great dancers was not a very good teacher. One thinks of the imperial-era dancers as belonging to another age in a dusty text, but the 1950's and 60's were producing dancers who are teaching now. Imagine what she could have given us, even if it were just memories of Petipa, had she been consulted in a more useful way.

I also see in Imperial Dancer that Olga Preobrajenska's "belongings were sold (without her agreement or even consultation) during her lifetime."

Hans, actually she was the first and long-time teacher of Tatyana Riabuchinskaya, one of the three famous "Baby Ballerinas." However, Preobrazhenskaya taught the other two "babies" and many more!

I read somewhere that, quite in her 'character', Kchessinskaya selected her students more on their 'pedigree' than talent for dance...lots of society debutants studied with her. Maybe their daddies paid more? :o

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I'm not sure this qualifies as "tragic end" but Erik Bruhn certainly did not lead a very happy life, despite his professional success.

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"The Sleeping Ballerina" by Anton Dolin, (1977) is about the last years of Olga Spessivtzeva, who was institutionalized in upstate New York for mental illness from 1943 to 1962. Dolin writes that he had to have her hospitalized, because she was genuinely ill, but when she recovered, he helped to get her out. When she was released, Dolin had arranged for her to stay at the Tolstoy Foundation in Nyack, NY. She was still alive when his book was published, and I don't know more about her. I have a xeroxed copy of the book, and the photos are so moving.

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Thankfully, the care she had at the Foundation was just wonderful, the atmosphere supportive and caring, and the surroundings very beautiful.

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The first Masha/Clara in Nutcracker, Stanislava Belinskaya, went mad shortly after her professional career at the Imperial Mariinsky Theater got started. She was a 'star' from the moment that she had set foot in the Imperial Ballet Academy and was constantly touted as headed to become the Greatest of the Greatest. Pressure got to her and she flipped.

Maria Andersson, a very noted ballerina of the late1880s/early 90s (first Fairy Fleur-de-Farine and White Cat in Beauty), was burned so badly during a rehearsal of Petipa's new ballet Cinderella, in 1893, that she had to retire. She lived until 1944 but never again performed.

Another one of the original Sleeping Beauty Prologue fairies: Alexandra Nedremskaya, the first Fairy Candide, died in 1891 (soon after the premiere of Beauty) at the age of 28.

Alexandra Vinogradova, an up-and-coming ballerina at the Mariinsky and the protege of Virginia Zucchi, died of consumption at age 20 in 1889. She had just made a great debut in the leading role of Talisman.

The very beautiful 'prima' of the Bolshoi Ballet during the late-Petipa era, Lubov Roslavleva, died at age 30 in 1904, under mysterious circumstances. She was the great Moscow rival to Kchessinskaya.

Maria Skorsiuk, a leading character soloist of the Mariinsky and the first Mlada in Lev Ivanov's staging of dances for the opera, died at age 29 (1900/01) of consumption or a similar disease.

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Joseph Duell jumped out a window to his death, I believe in 1988, soon after he had attained stardom at NYCB. It was said he was suffering from depression.

I was so happy to see footage of him in the recent American Masters documentary on Jerome Robbins -- I remember how sad we all were about his death.

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Joseph Duell jumped out a window to his death, I believe in 1988, soon after he had attained stardom at NYCB. It was said he was suffering from depression.

I was so happy to see footage of him in the recent American Masters documentary on Jerome Robbins -- I remember how sad we all were about his death.

It was in mid-February 1986, just barely over 23 years ago. There was a photo memorial to him in an issue of Ballet Review, and an article which noted that he was treated for depression by more than one professional.

He had made a dramatic breakthrough in the season or two before his death. Once primarily a self-effacing and elegant partner, he became a true leading man, charismatic and vivid in roles like the last movement of "Brahms/Schoenberg Quartet" and "Who Cares?", and he was superb in the matinee performance of the First Movement of "Symphony in C" the day before his suicide.

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:([

Dame Margot Fonteyn died penniless of Cancer in Panama, Paul Clarke a very talented up and coming Soloist died of a Heart Attack very young Diana ? drowned in a swimming pool, and Deidre O' connaire died after being hit by scenery all from The Royal Ballet. Patrick Bissell of ABT died of a Drug overdose. Hope I have not repeated what is already posted.

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I am trying to find people who knew James Dunne the dancer who danced with Harkness and Joffrey and was murdered in Hawaii. If you knew him please contact me at Yellowstoneballet@yahoo.com. I think about him often.

One of the most tragic I know of, mostly because extremely horrible circumstance was James Dunne, a former Harkness, Joffrey dancer who was murdered in Hawai in 1995. He had retired but was gaining reputation as a teacher. Very sad for me, he was a good friend with a lot more to give.

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I don't think anybody who ever studied at the Old Metropolitan Opera House can forget The Bridge. It was a lighting apparatus, but everybody had to use it to cross from left to right when certain operas were hung. The old house had a fire early in its life, and they never got around to completely repairing the backstage cross-corridor behind the stage area. It always occurred to me that it would be awful to have a performance of "Gioconda" and have Enzo taken out by a falling ballerina from the Dance of the Hours.

Oh yes, Mel. I remember that bridge very well as a student at the Old Met. Once or twice after class I went out on it and watched Ballet Russe dancing far below. Dizzying! (Leon Danilion is some Spanish ballet). I liked Opera too and watched that from my high perch as well. The backstage cross-corridor was in use then but had a huge open door onto 7th Avenue where they kept the scenery for each opera as it was being performed. When they used some of us 'ballet boys' as supernumeraries it sure was cold there in Winter, especially if you were in a short tunic. Our dressing room was sort of a damp, dingy dungeon under the stage with no heat and freezing cold in Winter. Think of taking a shower to get Aida body paint off in middle of February! But fun all the same. The young can endure anything.

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I'm indebted to a Russian friend who enlightened me about his unfortunate young dancer:

Maria Danilova (b St Petersburg, 1793, d St Petersburg, 20 Jan. 1810). Russian dancer. She studied at the Imperial Theatre School in St Petersburg where she was considered exceptionally talented particularly by Didelot who cast her in several of his ballets while she was still at school. She danced partly on pointe and at 15 she scored a notable triumph in Les Amours de Vénus et d'Adonis ou La vengeance de Mars, partnered by Duport with whom she had an unhappy love affair. This was considered to have undermined her delicate constitution, since she died of consumption aged 17.

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John Gilpin's death I also consider tragic: after battling with alcoholism and surviving thrombosis (he was lucky not to lose his leg), he at last found happiness after marrying his long time friend and confidante, Princess Antoinette of Monaco. He died of a heart attack only months after the wedding.

Princess Antoinette died this month at the age of 90:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Antoinette,_Baroness_of_Massy

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Richard Collins, a British dancer who remarkably managed to arrange training with the Bolshoi between 1968-72, and was artistic director of the Cincinnati Ballet, died in an auto acident in 1992.

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Here is another tragic story: teenage virtuosa Valentina Simukova of the Kirov-Mariinsky ballet. Pupil of Dudinskaya and already a ballerina at 16. Was dancing roles like the Dryad Queen in "Don Quixote" while still a student. Died at 17 from measles in 1967 - weren't antibiotics around then to save her?

Article here with video: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/dec/09/movetube-nutcracker-valentina-simukova

Valentina with Vadim Gulyaev in "The Nutcracker" pas de deux:

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