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Mashinka

Ekaterina N. Geidenreikh

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The recent threads on ballets about the holocaust and Who’s Biography Next have prompted me to post some questions about the Russian dancer Ekaterina Geidenreikh who spent part of her life in a soviet labour camp.

I first became curious about Geidenreikh after seeing a beautiful charcoal and pastel portrait of her in a Sotheby sale of Russian art. It was by an artist called Zinaida Serebriakova and the estimate was £6-8,000. In the catalogue Geidenreikh was described as a former ballerina and her dates were given as 1897-1981. The picture was quite lovely and showed Geidenreikh as a young woman of serene beauty.

As her name was totally unfamiliar to me I started to do some research, but found virtually nothing. The only reference to her was in Valery Panov’s excellent autobiography “To Dance”, where he describes her as a coach at the Maly Theatre who had formerly helped set up the ballet school in Perm. He says she had been sentenced to a labour camp during the Second World War, when an unwise remark that the Germans might “spare” her because of her German name had led to her eventual imprisonment. Panov notes that even her artistically powerful husband, Leonid Lavrovsky, was unable to save her.

Obviously Geidenreikh survived her ordeal (the Gulags weren’t always a death sentence) but I would love to have more information about her. What sort of roles did she dance? Did she inspire any choreographers of the time? Do any critiques of her dancing still exist?

I know I am asking a pretty obscure question, but a Google search revealed nothing at all and some of you may have access to information that I don’t. I would also be interested to know of any other dancers who suffered a similar fate during the Soviet era.

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an article in the february 1998 issue of the dancing times makes mention of an exhibit in st petersburg dedicated to her. i don't have the article here, but found it listed in the new york public library dance collection's on-line catalog. it is the only reference to her there. the article might be helpful.

additionally i did a search on her last name only, and found a link to a history page of the perm school, which has a paragraph about her and what i think is supposed to be a painting of her in later life.

http://www.balletschool.perm.ru/History-E.htm

[ 08-03-2001: Message edited by: Mme. Hermine ]

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I found another page mentioning her name:

http://www.evrensel.net/00/08/13/kultur.html

bu it's a language I don't understand at all (perhaps Turkish or Hungarish?) And the article which mentions her name (title:

Ural Daðlarý?nda rüya görmeye cesaret eden gençler) seems to be a a translation of an article by Anna Kisselgoff in the New York Times.

Curiously, she isn't mentioned in the notice about Leonid Lavrovsky in Koegler's dictionary.

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Steve! Are you reading this?? (Steve always says he likes difficult Quiz questions, leftover from the days when there was a weekly Ballet Alert! quiz, when I was young and foolish)

Mashinka, thanks for posting this. This is a ballerina I've never heard of -- do any of our Russian (usually) Lurkers know anything?

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I passed this query on to Robert Greskovic, who volunteered the following -- thank you, Robert!

Dictionary of Russian ballet in russian says:

She was born 19 dec 1897 and died 28 jan 1982.

She seems to have staged CHOPINIANA at the bolshoi in 1958. Her ballet roles included those in 'humpbacked horse' 'sleeping beauty' (Violent and Lilac) "Ramzea(?) in "FilleDuPharoan" a role in Carnaval, Gamzatti in "Bayaderka" Pierrette" in "Harliquinada". A Leningrad pedagogue from 57 -62. w/ her staging of 'Chopiniana' for the Bolshoi in '58.

Interesting employ -- Gamzatti and Pierrette are very different roles!

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Many thanks to everyone who responded so promptly to my questions. To be honest I hadn’t expected any replies at all.

I have certainly learnt more about Geidenreikh than I knew before. From the dates given for her founding the school in Perm, I deduce that her term of imprisonment must have been mercifully short, though I believe that the relative remoteness of that city meant that it was regarded as internal exile by the authorities. It was also interesting to compare the portrait of her in later life with the picture in Sotheby’s catalogue.

She certainly danced a wide range of roles. I wonder if the fact that she danced the Lilac fairy is a clue to her height? I was delighted to hear that she danced in Daughter of the Pharaoh as I saw Pierre Lacotte’s production at the Bolshoi last year and fell in love with it.

Thank you all once again for your help; I think you are all brilliant !!!

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Thank you for the question! I think many of us have learned something about a ballerina we've never heard of!

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Does anybody know what language that article that Estelle gave the URL to is written in? It isn't Turkish or Hungarian. It's an Indo-European language, I think to judge from the little I was able to make out. Some of the letters seem to have been borrowed from Icelandic. Just curious.

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interestingly, on a list of the graduating class of the imperial school for the year 1915, i find that ekaterina geidenreikh was in the same graduating class as anatole vilzak, whom i am sure many people will remember. just as a sideline, the class list was:

anatole vilzak

ekaterina geidenreikh

zenaida zaitseva

maria kozukova

elena kusova

olga oblakova

sergei rizhkov

all of these spellings, except for the first two, are from badly 'translated' reading of the russian characters, and are probably somewhat incorrect. but interesting to note a graduating class of a total of 7 people!

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Felursus! Yes, you are right, those funny "d" are the same in Icelandic, but in that case I would have understood a lot of the article. Now I don't, but I checked on the phone number at the end of the article, it is a Turkish phone number. However, I have a pupil from Kurdistan, I will show him the article when I see him next - I suspect it might be Kurdish. Yes, I know what it is like, I cannot bear not knowing something and I am always curious! :rolleyes:

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