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Alla Shelest


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Reading books about Russian ballet, it's clear that Alla Shelest was an important ballerina in her time. From the pictures, she also was stunningly beautiful. Yet I've yet to come across a video of her dancing. Does anyone know if she was ever filmed in anything? I'd love to see her dance.

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I’ve always been fascinated by Alla Shelest, not only are there no filmed records of her dancing but even photographs seem in short supply.

In his autobiography Rudolf Nureyev claimed she was the greatest of the Kirov dancers and Russians I’ve spoken to of an older generation would concur.

The only thing I can add to that brief but otherwise very good piece on Mr Haegeman's site is that not only was she the muse for Grigorovich’s early works, she was also his wife.

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as noted there are no films in the public domain as i know it of Alla Yakovlevna Shelest.

i have a number of photos of her, and have scanned these two of her Odile: one portrait and one full-figure, studio photo, where she's posed in toeshoes without ribbons.

the only listing the NYPL has for 'shelest' and 'film' is the following, obviously viewable only on site at the lincoln center branch:

Khoreograficheskie miniatiury 1960. 2 reels. 69 1/2 min. 2522 ft. : sd. b&w. ; 16 mm.

Notes: A Lenfilm Studios production. Titles in Russian. Narration in English. Director: M. Sheinin. Script: A. Dudko and Leonid Iakobson.

Choreography: Leonid Iakobson. Music: Tchaikovsky, Glazunov, Rachmaninoff, Skriabin, Prokof'ev, Grieg, Debussy, Strauss, E. Pons, Stravinsky, Sh. Aranov, S. Kagan, O. Karavaichuk, B. Kravchenko, V. Tsitovich, and I. Shvarts. Scenic design: E. Enei and A. Veksler.

Performed by dancers of the Kirov Ballet including Igor Bel'skii, Irina Kolpakova, Olga Moiseyeva, Igor Chernyshev, Alla Shelest, and Natalia Makarova.

CONTENTS. - Reel 1. 1426 ft. Reflection. Punchinello. The Troika. The Toady. Triptych on a theme of Rodin: Eternal spring, The kiss, Eternal idol. The skaters. The gossips. The hunter and the bird. The mother. - Reel 2. 1096 ft. Stronger than death. The snow maiden. The lovers. The meeting. Vienna waltz. Young beggars. The Leningrad waltz. Review of entire program.



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A friend of mine, who is a well-known teacher in California and was a featured principal dancer in "Children of Theater Street", Tamara Statkoun, lists Alla Shelest as one of her most revered and influential teachers. So, this remarkable dancer, Alla Shelest, was also a huge factor in the training of the next generation of Kirov dancers...

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I think I remember reading that she was constantly second-cast after Natalia Dudinskaya, which may be why she has little exposure elsewhere. It's a pity: from all of the photos in the linked gallery she must have been a very dramatic, charismatic dancer.

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I was too little to remember Alla Shelest and young Nureyev (when I had a chance to see him a few times in the West,he was way past his prime) in performance at the Kirov,but my mother always told me what an incredible dancer Alla Shelest was,in fact she was one of her favorite.Actually most ballet goers of my mother's generation considered Shelest as their favorite Kirov dancer. It's both a crime and a tragedy that we have nothing preserved on film of this genius performer,whose talent such giants as Ulanova and Plisetskaya absolutely worshipped.

There is a video of " The Fountain of Bahchisarai " with Ulanova and Plisetskaya. It was filmed in Leningrad and Shelest was supposed to dance Zarema(which was one of her greatest roles),but she was in a car accident, so Plisetskaya got a call to come over to Leningrad and repalce Shelest.

Her timing was just unlucky. She was the brightest star in the Kirov galaxy, but at the time when Dudinskaya was the most powerful woman at the Kirov together with her husband Sergeyev,no star, I guess, was allowed to shine brighter.I am not trying to take anything away from Dudinskaya who was indeed a great dancer, but Shelest never opened a season,never had an honour of the premiere even of ballets that her then husband Grigorovich made on her.

The Kirov and it's management are the villains responsible for robbing ballet lovers of appreciating the genius of a unique artist.

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Isn't there a biography of her out there, by someone named Rafail Vaga-something? If I remember rightly, she was viewed as too close to the (Sergei) Kirov crowd during the Stalin era, and insufficiently chummy with the Khrushchev crowd when De-Stalinization became the thing to do.

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Propyleae Art in Saint-Petersburg published a ravishing photo book about Alla Shelest in 2004. It has some 90 pages of black and white photos of her (mostly full-page, to make one's mouth water). I suspect hard to find outside of Russia. The sense of style and character that speaks from many of these studio-posed photos is quite astonishing.

Thanks, Robert for posting these photos. The coloured one is indeed Jacinta.

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According to the publisher's statement, she failed to attain the pinnacle of Olympian fame because of a combination of modesty, insularity and pride.

That would square with my general knowledge of her career, which says that she was one of those dancers who didn't do politics. Dancing, she did. That was what she knew.

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a kirov ballet documentary (made for french tv?) around 1978 included some rehearsal footage with shelest rehearsing the conclusion of the female soloist's Mazurka solo from CHOPINIANA. i don't know the film's name nor do i know if it was ever released or telecast outside russia again. i had a copy dubbed from a friend's beta copy, but by then it had started to 'go funny.'

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She also gives a prime example of the Russian back (from the book Marc mentioned above):


(scroll down and click on it)

How do they do that?!

Well it seems to be a mystery of Russian schooling. Because look at Anna Pavlova. Archetypical Russian back.

Anyway I went home and dug up the autobiography by Natalia Makarova and she said Shelest was a difficult, confusing teacher. But the lack of video documentation is so sad. As much as I like Galina Ulanova, it would have been nice to see ample video documentation of her peers.

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You can see Alla Shelest dancing in Classic Kirov performances by Kultur. She is in the scene from movie-ballet "Gayane", dancing small adagio with Semion Kaplan. Incredible dancing by all artists in this fragment.

Is the title of the dvd "Kirov Classics" Video? I would like to purchase it.


The contents of the DVD in the link are:

Chopiniana (Asylmuratova/Zaklinsky/Pankova/Polikarpova)

Petrushka (Vikharov)

Barber's Adagio (Yevteeva/Eldaraliev)

Le Corsaire (Kunakova/Ruzimator)

The Fairy Doll (Leznina/Gruzev/Fadeyev) -- shown often on Classic Arts cable network

Markitenka (Pankova/Vikharov/Sitnikova/Kultun/Zelenkina/Mrlnikobs)

Paquita (Makhalina/Zelensky/Pankova/Sitnikova/Chicherin/Zhelonkina/Kunakova/Leznina/Koltun/Ivanova)

(Apologies for any typos -- I copied the names of the performers off of the credits, and my handwriting's a little dodgy.)

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there is a confusion here, kultur's CLASSIC KIROV is a one cassette release (i don't think it's issued on DVD) of historic films.

KIROV CLASSICS is nowadays a 2-DVD set of fairly recent kirov performances.

here is NYPL dance coll. for CLASSIC KIROV - the vid that is mentioned as having some footage of shelest's dancing, even though her name is not among the credits for the 6 min. GAYANE segment, she would be included in the 'others' indication:

Classic Kirov performances c1992. 107 min. : sd. color and b&w Produced by Castle Communications, PLC. Distributed as a videotape by Kultur, West Long Branch, New Jersey.

Performed by members of the Kirov Ballet.

CONTENTS: The sleeping beauty (approx. 3 min., b&w). Chor: Petipa. Mus: Tchaikovsky. Recorded in 1930. Perf. by Tatiana Vecheslova (Aurora) and others. -- Bayaderka (approx. 6 min., b&w). Chor: Chabukiani and Ponomarev after Petipa. Mus: Minkus. Recorded in 1940. Perf. by Natalia Dudinskaya (Nikiya), Vakhtang Chabukiani (Solor), and ensemble. -- Don Quixote: [Act I excerpts] (approx. 7 min., color). Chor: Gorski and Ponomarev. Mus: Minkus. Recorded in 1980. Perf. by Ninella Kurgapkina (Kitri) and others. -- Gayane (approx. 6 min., color). Chor: Anisimova. Mus: Khachaturian. No recording date. Perf. by V. Vecheslova (Nune) and others. -- Chopiniana: pas de deux (approx. 3 min., color). Chor: Fokine. Mus: Chopin. No recording date. Perf. by Galina Ulanova and partner. -- Ruslan and Ludmila (approx. 10 min., color). Chor: Fokine. Mus: Glinka. No recording date. perf. by Gabriella Komleva and others. -- The nutcracker: grand pas de deux (approx. 5 min., b&w). Chor: Vainonen. Mus: Tchaikovsky. No recording date. Perf. by Irina Kolpakova (Masha), Vladilen Semenov (The nutcracker/Prince), and others. -- Don Quixote: [Act I excerpts] (approx. 1 min., color). Chor: Gorski and Ponomarev. Mus: Minkus. Recorded in 1987. Perf. by Tatiana Terekhova (Kitri) and others. -- Cinderella (approx. 4 min., b&w). Chor: Konstantin Sergeyev. Mus: Prokofiev. Recorded in 1976. Perf. by Kolpakova (Cinderella) and others. -- Prince Igor (approx 9 min., color). Chor: Fokine. Mus: Borodin. Recorded in 1983. Perf. by Annelina Kashirina (Polovtsian maiden), Yuri Gumba (Polovtsian chief), and others. -- The dying swan (approx. 2 min., b&w). Chor: Fokine. Mus: Saint-Saëns. No recording date. Perf. by Anna Pavlova. -- Chopiniana (approx. 13 min., color). Chor: Fokine. Mus: Chopin. Recorded in 1978. Perf. by K. Ter-Stepanova, Vadim Guliaev, Nina Sakhnovskaya, Olga Likhovskaya, and others. -- Raymonda (approx. 11 min., color). Chor: Konstantin Sergeyev after Petipa. Mus: Glazunov. No recording date. Perf. by Dudinskaya (Raymonda), Konstantin Sergeyev (Jean de Brienne), and others. -- Fountain of Bakhchisarai (approx. 7 min., color). Chor: Zakharov. Mus: Asafiev. Recorded in 1981. Perf. by Alla Sizova (Maria), Nikolai Ostaltsov (Girei), and Lyubov Galinskaya (Zarema). -- Romeo and Juliet (approx. 1 min., b&w). Chor: Lavrovsky. Mus: Prokofiev. Recorded in 1940. Perf. by Ulanova (Juliet) and Konstantin Sergeyev (Romeo). -- Taras Bulba (approx. 4 min., b&w). Chor: Lopukhov. Mus: Soloviev Sedoy. Recorded in 1940. Perf. by Chabukiani (Andrei), Mikhail Dudko (Taras Bulba), and others. -- Esmeralda (approx. 14 min., b&w and color). Chor: Vaganova. Mus: Pugni. Recorded in 1987. Perf. by Altynai Asylmuratova (Esmeralda), Kirill Melnikov (Pierre Gringoire), and others.

Anthology of film and video dance excerpts dating from 1930 to 1987.

here are the credits for what is now on DVD as KIROV CLASSICS (from a video cassette release intially called: THE MARYINSKY BALLET:

The Maryinsky Ballet, St. Petersburg [videorecording] : mixed bill / co-produced by Danmarks Radio and RM Arts ; produced and directed by Thomas Grimm ; artistic direction by Oleg Vinogradov. (147 min.) : sd., col. NTSC ; 1/2 in. (VHS)

Title on wrapper and original container: Kirov classics.

Scenic coordinator, Ves Harper ; lighting, Jorgen Johannessen, Tim Hunter.

Danced by the Maryinsky Ballet [Kirov Ballet].

Music performed by the Maryinsky Orchestra, conducted by Viktor Fedotov.

Chopiniana [Les sylphides] (ca. 31 min.) / choreography, Michel Fokine, restaged by Agrippina Vaganova ; music, Frédéric Chopin ; scenery, Mikhail Bocharov ; danced by Altynai Asylmuratova and Konstantin Zaklinsky, with Yelena Pankova (waltz), Anna Polikarpova (prelude), and corps de ballet.

Petrushka (ca. 39 min.) / choreography and libretto, Oleg Vinogradov ; music, Igor Stravinsky ; set and costumes, Irina Press, Vyatislav Okunev ; danced by Sergei Vikharev (Petrushka) and others.

Barber's Adagio (ca. 19 min.) / choreography and costumes, Oleg Vinogradov ; music, Samuel Barber (Adagio for strings) ; danced by Yelena Yevteeva and Eldar Aliev.

Le corsaire pas de deux (ca. 8 min.) / choreography, Marius Petipa ; music, Adolphe Adam, Riccardo Drigo ; danced by Lyubov Kunakova and Faroukh Ruzimatov.

The fairy doll [Die Puppenfee] (ca. 11 min.) / choreography, N[ikolai] and S[ergei] Legat ; music, Josef Bayer ; danced by Larissa Lezhnina, Dmitry Gruzdev, and Yaroslav Fadayev.

Markitenka pas de six [La vivandière pas de six] (ca. 14 min.) / choreography, Arthur Saint-Léon ; music, Cesare Pugni ; danced by Yelena Pankova and Sergei Vikharev with Irina Sitnikova, Alexandra Koltun, Irina Zhelonkina, Olga Melnikova.

Paquita (ca. 32 min.) / choreography, Marius Petipa ; music, L. Minkus ; danced by Yulia Makhalina and Igor Zelensky, with corps de ballet ; pas de trois danced by Yelena Pankova, Irina Sitnikova, Grigory Chicherin ; variations danced by Irina Zhelonika, Lyubov Kunakova, Larissa Lezhnina, Alexandra Koltun, Veronika Ivanova.

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i ran into irina kolpakova and vladilen semyonov tonight at the ABT JKO School perf. and asked if she recalled shelest's peforming Gayane on stage, besides on the film mentioned here, and she said: Absolutely! Fantastic! (and that's a direct quote.)

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