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Maya Plisetskaya Autobiography


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#16 Alexandra

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Posted 26 January 2002 - 12:30 AM

There's a video called Plisetskaya Dances that has a lot of her Kitri on it -- I think that was her great role, that and "Swan Lake." She and Ulanova were the great Bolshoi ballerinas (Ulanova was Kirov trained, but transferred to the Kirov). There's a wonderful video called "Stars of the Russian Ballet" with BOTH Ulanova and Plisetskaya, and I'm still jealous of people who got to see them night after night.

From video evidence and stories of friends, Plisetskaya had an extraordinary technique and was very dramatic. One of the "monstre sacres."

#17 justafan

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Posted 26 January 2002 - 06:56 PM

Thanks Alexandra.

One of the failings of the book is that you really don't get a feel for how she danced. (Unlike, say, Allegra Kent's autobiography.) It's odd that she had extraordinary technique, because she downplays her technique in the book. She makes a point of saying she resents never having had the opportunity to study with Vaganova, as some of her contemporaries did (ie Ulanova). And she relates a story of Balanchine telling her she needs a good teacher, after she tells him she doesn't study with anyone. Thus, I thought she might have been like Fonteyn -- someone with flawed technique but great presence.

I'll take your advice and purchase the "Stars of the Russian Ballet" from Amazon. After first clicking the ad at the top of this page, of course.
biggrin.gif

#18 Alexandra

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Posted 26 January 2002 - 08:24 PM

When I first became interested in ballet, Plisetskaya was the one people held up as being the super technician -- you'll see her turns on the video. She looks like a skater.

She may well not have been perfectly placed, as a Vaganova student would be. (And dancers are always hard on themselves, especially great ones.) I also think she was one who wanted to be able to forget the technique so she could tear up the stage. Even on film, you can sense she was an animal on stage.

I showed some of the Don Q footage to a class of dancers once -- they'd never heard of her. They were astounded. They kept saying she danced like a man. (I don't think Maya P would have taken that as a compliment.)

#19 felursus

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Posted 03 February 2002 - 11:12 PM

We all knew that there were KGB agents following the dancers around on tour (and of course were aware that Plisetskaya was not allowed on the 1959 Bolshoi tour of the US (their first appearance here). So when she turned up on the next tour she was an object of curiosity even before we saw her dance. BTW the KGB agents were not just burly men "in raincoats" - a lot of them were the wardrobe ladies, and one was a US interpreter who had been hired by the KGB to spy on the Russian dancers. Generally, the dancers were allowed to "socialize" with fans, briefly, at the stage door and in the lobby of their hotel (opposite Penn Station). The hotel was about 7 blocks from the Old Met, so another opportunity to socialize was to walk with them back to the hotel. Of course, no one could go up to their rooms. This produced feelings of amazement at the turn of history when, during the Kirov tours after the fall of the Soviet Union, we could happily picnic with Kirov dancers in their hotel rooms. The younger dancers who had not been on foreign tours prior the the change in government took this openness in stride, but when talking to the older dancers they, too, expressed amazement.

#20 Victoria Leigh

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Posted 04 February 2002 - 12:05 AM

Actually, felursus, she was on that tour in '59. I saw her do Dying Swan, and will never forget it because it was both the most awesome and then one of the most destroyed things I had ever seen. Awesome the first time, but, to me, totally ruined by an encore! I was pretty young, and not very knowledgeable, but I somehow knew that was wrong, and the moment which had been so incredible was wrecked.

#21 innopac

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Posted 10 January 2010 - 07:02 PM

George Feifer in his book Russia close-up had this to say about the earnings of Russian Dancers in 1973.

Although the Soviet booking agency, StateConcert, demands standard fees for the Bolshoi's Western appearances, it pays Plisetskaya no more than fifty per cent, and often as little as ten per cent, of what similar artists would command for similar work.



#22 dirac

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 10:28 AM

Interesting note, innopac. Thanks for reviving this old thread, it's good reading.

#23 Joseph

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 12:02 PM

does she still live in Munich?

#24 bart

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 01:24 PM

Although the Soviet booking agency, StateConcert, demands standard fees for the Bolshoi's Western appearances, it pays Plisetskaya no more than fifty per cent, and often as little as ten per cent, of what similar artists would command for similar work.

To put this in perspective, he also writes:

It is their opportunity to earn not rubles but foreign currency that makes a small clique of Russian writers and performers fantastically rich by their own country's standards.

A half a loaf, but better than what was available to those who were not permitted to perform in the West.

Permission to earn Western currency was something that separated favored artists from those who were not so lucky or well connected.

#25 bart

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 01:31 PM

Although the Soviet booking agency, StateConcert, demands standard fees for the Bolshoi's Western appearances, it pays Plisetskaya no more than fifty per cent, and often as little as ten per cent, of what similar artists would command for similar work.

To put this in perspective, he also writes:

It is their opportunity to earn not rubles but foreign currency that makes a small clique of Russian writers and performers fantastically rich by their own country's standards.

A half a loaf, but better than what was available to those who were not permitted to perform (and thus to earn foreign currency) in the West.

#26 Richka

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Posted 12 January 2010 - 02:00 PM

Interesting note, innopac. Thanks for reviving this old thread, it's good reading.


An interesting thread. Good it's revived. I read Plisetskaya's book years ago but it was only in Russian then but as I am Russian speaking it was okay. I iwould like to also read it in English some day. I remember her saying she was not a lesbian (Ya nye Lyezbyanka, in Russian) because a lesbian fan followed her around everywhere. This devoted fan was Anna, but I forgot her last name. The KGB warned Maya to not associate with her even though Anna was a very nice lady. I remember she was forever at the stage door waiting for Maya back during the 60s abd 70s.
I was possibly a fan of Plisetskaya myself and in 1972 when the Bolshoi was appearing in Toronto I took a train and attended every single performance. I even was allowed backstage one morning to watch company class that she was teaching, or I should say holding, as the company of stars were just following her. They were all there, Samokvalova, Liepa, Besmertnova, Vasiliev, etc. It was thrilling just to be in their presence. She of course danced Dying Swan with about 3 encores and multiple curtain calls. I particularly wanted to see The Humpbacked Horse and they did a rather long scene from it. She always said she was glad they put in on the shelf as she didn't like dancing it, but I was enamoured of it from the first when I saw the film version. (They have just revived it at Maryinsky with new choreography by Ratmansky rather than the Radunsky).
If any of you were New Yorkers and Bolshoi fans during the 60s, 70s, 80s you may have known Nina Brito. Nina knew everyone in the ballet world and especially the Bolshoi. She was Mexican but spoke perfect Russian. She even introduced me to Grigorovitch and Gordeyev and I helped them both buy Video recorders and showed them around Manhattan one day. I last saw Nina when she treated me to dinner at the Russian Tea Room along with Valentina Peryaslavic. Poor Nina. She died in 1982. She was such a friend of ballet and its dancers!

#27 ginasf

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Posted 24 February 2010 - 11:42 AM

Thanks Alexandra.

One of the failings of the book is that you really don't get a feel for how she danced. (Unlike, say, Allegra Kent's autobiography.) It's odd that she had extraordinary technique, because she downplays her technique in the book. She makes a point of saying she resents never having had the opportunity to study with Vaganova, as some of her contemporaries did (ie Ulanova). And she relates a story of Balanchine telling her she needs a good teacher, after she tells him she doesn't study with anyone. Thus, I thought she might have been like Fonteyn -- someone with flawed technique but great presence.

I'll take your advice and purchase the "Stars of the Russian Ballet" from Amazon. After first clicking the ad at the top of this page, of course.
biggrin.gif



Okay, I'm replying years later, but I'm glad this thread is reopened because I'm a huge Maya fan. The book is really about a very narrow part of her life... mostly her dealings with the apparatchiks. She has precious little about her family. She doesn't really even mention she has two younger brothers both of whom were dancers (Azari and Alexander). She really mentions her mother only passingly at the beginning of the book even though she lived together with her until she married Rodion. Nor does she really mention much about Assaf Messerer's influence on her dancing. She took Messerer's class for most of her career at the Bolshoi, so I think Balanchine telling her she needed a good teacher was kind of a cross-cultural joke. It was Balanchine's snarky way of saying he hated the dancing at the Bolshoi. Basically, Balanchine was all about the expressiveness of the choreography while Maya is a prime example of expressive performers which Balanchine often undervalued.

There is a fairly recent French DVD of Maya's work called Diva of Dance. http://www.cdunivers...asp?pid=7033398

It's not a perfect compilation (Plisetskaya dances is, in some ways better), but it has an extraordinary full recording of her doing Bejart's Bolero... you'll never forget it as long as you live. They also have an entire series of wonderful interviews with her when she was probably 82-83 years old.

#28 Mashinka

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Posted 25 February 2010 - 03:56 AM

She really mentions her mother only passingly at the beginning of the book even though she lived together with her until she married Rodion.


Really? Perhaps living with the mother in law was why her earlier marriages failed.


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