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CygneDanois

Svetlana Beriosova

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I recently bought a Nureyev video that includes two pas de deux with Beriosova: Diana & Actaeon and Swan Lake Act III. She looks really lovely--beautiful long limbs, graceful, strong technique. Anyway, I read felursus's reply in "Ballets in Detail" regarding her Giselle and I was wondering if others have memories of her. I definitely want to know more about her--also, if anyone knows of any books or videos (the one I have is "Rudolf Nureyev: His Complete Bell Telephone Hour Performances") that I should check out, let me know.

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To find out more about Beriosova, I suggest you go to www.ballet.co.uk Ballet Legends 2 page, and read Jane Simpson's perceptive comments.

I remember Beriosova very well from her days as Principal with the Royal Ballet. She was an aristocrat among ballerinas, tall, beautiful and elegant. I saw her in many things, but especially remember her partnership with the very handsome Donald MacLeary. They were perfect together. MacLeary is still around and still very handsome! Beriosova died fairly recently.

She did all the classics, but I was particularly impressed by her Lady Elgar in Ashton's Enigma Variations, and her amazing Persephone (also Ashton), where she not only danced but also spoke the Andre Gide text in perfect French. Not many dancers today could do that!

I also just about remember her father, Nicholas Beriosov, who was ballet master with the London Festival Ballet when I was a child, and I think danced the occasional character part like Dr. Coppelius. How I wish I'd kept all my programmes so that I would be quite certain who I'd seen in what.

[ 05-09-2001: Message edited by: Helena ]

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The first role I saw Beriosova in was the Tsarina in Anastasia, very early in my ballet seeing career. It was a farily small role, but I just melted when she walked on. She had such warmth and grace and maturity. (Interestingly enough, when ABT danced it, I hardly notices the Tsarina.) A year or so later, she danced a couple of Cinderellas, and I have never seen such curtain calls. It seemed that everyone in London who had ever seen her was there (she wasn't such a big name, so the tourists weren't so interested). There must have been thousands of daffodils thrown and people were just standing and applauding long after the performance ended. I have never felt such genuine love for a performer--not admiration or astonishment, just warmth. She was a glorious dancer.

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One of my regrets is that I never saw the mature Beriosova. I saw her many times when she was a teen ager in pas-de-deux classes at the Vilzak-Shollar school in NYC. We all expected her to be a world-class ballerina.

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I remember watching Svetlana in class at the old School of American Ballet on Madison and 59th. She was awesome and a real lady! I was young and she seemed tall to me. Svetlana had the most beautiful legs and feet. I have her autograph in my autograph book :)

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There are at least two bios of Beriosova. I have them, but can't access them at this time in order to give you the information. Beriosova, interestingly, spent her childhood in New York, where she was brought because of WWII. She was born in Sept. 1932 in Kaunas, Lithuania (? my geography is vague). She spent her early childhood in France, (thus the fluent French), but when the war started, her family managed to get on the last boat out of Italy to the US. In an article about her, someone mentioned that she had played baseball while in school her. Somehow the mind boggles. When she was 14, she was taken to England by her father and joined the Metropolitan Ballet. After a while she was invited to join the Sadler's Wells Ballet. The rest is history.

I think her "signature" role was Odette. If she was 'on' she could be a wonderful Odile as well. She was also a beautiful, sweet and elegant Aurora. Surprisingly, she also danced Clara in the Nureyev 'Nutcracker' - very charmingly. Beriosova opened the Royal Ballet season at the Met in Cinderella in 1969. It was a performance made famous by the fact that the coach, which Cinderella gets into upstage center and which then circles the stage to downstage center before the curtain closes, tipped over with her inside.

Those performances of Cinderella at Covent Garden in the early circa 1973 marked her short-lived return to dancing full-length ballets after about a two-year hiatus due to health problems. I was there - working as an usherette. I had to take two nights off in order to see the complete performances, and I arranged for the fans to use the sinks in the usherette changing room to keep the daffodils fresh.

After those performances, she only was cast in one other full-length (besides the Tsarina role in 'Anastasia') - in Giselle, and then she only completed Act I, as she sustained a foot injury. Lynn Seymour performed Act II - unrehearsed - with Donald Macleary. Macleary, by the way, was one of the world's greatest partners. Seymour said that he was the only one with whom she would have dared perform Giselle Act II unrehearsed.

Beriosova retired to young. The last stage role she performed, I think, was Lady Capulet (and I think she only did it once). She died about a year ago of cancer.

Somewhere I have two pairs of Beriosova's shoes. I have loads of autographs.

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It's nice to see Anthony Dowell, in an interview in today's Times, quoting Beriosova as one of the two dancers he most admired and was influenced by (the other was Fonteyn). He also wrote a very warm and emotionally open piece about her in the Covent Garden programme after she died.

Link to interview:

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/0,,62-201197,00.html

The two books about her are a biograohy by A. H. Franks and a shorter piece, mainly photographs, by Cyril Swinson. The only other commercially available video featuring her that I know is The Soldier's Tale - and there are a few glimpses of her as the Lilac Fairy in the composite Sleeping Beauty film, and a film of her in Cranko's Lady and the Fool - both probably to be seen at the NYPL.

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