Famed Bolshoi Ballerina Maximova Dies at 70


MOSCOW ~ Ekaterina Maximova, a legendary Bolshoi Theatre ballerina and Soviet-era dance superstar, died this week at her home in Moscow, at age 70, a spokeswoman for the theatre said.

The former prima ballerina, who was still active in choreography and teaching for the troupe, died unexpectedly early Tuesday morning of causes yet unknown, Bolshoi spokeswoman Katya Novikova said.

Maximova’s husband and lifelong dance partner Vladimir Vasiliev – who was also the Bolshoi’s artistic director for a five-year span – was on his way back to Moscow on Tuesday from a trip abroad, Novikova said.

“She died too soon. She was still full of strength,” current Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze was quoted as saying by RIA-Novosti. “This is the loss of an extremely valuable person, whose opinion I held very dear.”

The ballerina joined the Bolshoi right from school in 1958 and danced at the company for nearly 30 years.

She took part in the Bolshoi’s landmark debut tour of the United States in 1959. Partnered with Vasiliev, the two were dubbed “the babies of the Bolshoi” by US critics who raved over their technical discipline and on-stage emotion.

Maximova won over audiences in many of the troupe’s grand-scale productions of the 1960s and 1970s, dancing such key roles as Phrygia in Spartacus, Masha in The Nutcracker and the lead in Giselle.

She was also unusual among the Soviet dancers of her time in that she worked with foreign choreographers, performing in Maurice Bejart’s Romeo and Juliet in 1978 and Roland Petit’s Blue Angel in 1987.

“This woman was a ‘baby of the Bolshoi’ who grew into an astounding tragic actress, a ballerina of the (post-Stalin) Thaw, the pride of Russian ballet, and the beauty and pride of any foreign troupe for which she preformed,” the Bolshoi said in a statement posted on its website.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev offered the Bolshoi his condolences on the loss of the dancer, who had been named a People’s Artist of the Soviet Union – a top cultural honour – in 1973.

Lavish celebrations were held in Moscow in the past year honouring Maximova and Vasiliev’s 50th wedding anniversary and the ballerina’s 70th birthday.

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