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Ballerinas/danseurs who met tragic ends in real life

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#61 Natalia


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Posted 19 February 2009 - 12:51 PM

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

#62 Rosa


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Posted 19 February 2009 - 01:05 PM

Jennifer Alexander, Tanja Liedtke

#63 canbelto


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Posted 19 February 2009 - 07:19 PM

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

#64 ViolinConcerto


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Posted 19 February 2009 - 07:30 PM

"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.

#65 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 20 February 2009 - 02:03 AM

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

#66 Natalia


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Posted 20 February 2009 - 05:11 AM

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.

#67 sandik


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Posted 01 March 2009 - 08:14 PM

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.

#68 Helene



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Posted 01 March 2009 - 10:08 PM

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.

#69 Nanarina


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Posted 14 March 2009 - 08:27 PM


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.

#70 Rakela


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Posted 13 February 2011 - 08:00 PM

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.

#71 Richka


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Posted 29 March 2011 - 01:53 PM

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.

#72 Mashinka


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Posted 30 March 2011 - 12:44 AM

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.

#73 miliosr


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Posted 30 March 2011 - 09:04 AM

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:


#74 Marcmomus



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Posted 31 March 2011 - 06:55 AM

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.

#75 FauxPas


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Posted 10 December 2011 - 06:05 AM

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....entina-simukova


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


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