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Maya Plisetskaya Autobiography

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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!

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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.


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.cduniverse.com/productinfo.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.

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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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