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 Mathilda Kschessinskaya

Born:   31 August [O.S. 19 August] 1872
Deceased:   6 December 1971

Well-known Russian ballerina and teacher


Mathilda-Marie Feliksovna Kschessinskaya was born on August (19) 31, 1872 in Ligovo Settlement (near Petersburg), into the family of ballet dancers of the Mariinsky Theater. Upon graduation from the Imperial Theatre School, Matilda danced in the Mariinsky Theater till 1917. In different years among her teachers there were Lev Ivanov, Ekaterina Vazem, and Christian Johansson.

Mathilda-Marie Kschessinskaya was the leading ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater, and the ideal performer of Marius Petipa’s ballets, which made up the basis of repertoire by the end of the 19th century.
In 1899 her long dream came true: Marius Petipa offered her Esmeralda's part, and since then she individually owned this role, thus displeasing lots of other ballerinas. Before Mathilda this part was performed by Italians only.
Kschessinskaya decided to supplement soft plasticity of the Russian ballet school with virtuosity of the Italian school; for this purpose she, already being a performer, took classes from Enrico Cecchetti.
Very few people knew about her charitable activities. During World War I Kschessinskaya organized and financed an infirmary and invited the best doctors there. Then she arranged her benefit performance, and transferred the profit from it to the Russian theatrical society, to families of the actors called up for military service.

In 1929 Kschessinskaya opened a ballet school in Paris. She gave her first lesson in the school in April, 1929, and a few years later already admitted one hundred students.
In 1936, at the age of 64 Mathilda Kschessinskaya invited by the Administration of London Covent Garden took the stage and easily and perfectly danced her turn – the legendary “Russian”, in a sundress embroidered with silver threads and a pearl kokoshnik (traditional Russian women’s sun-dress). She was encored by audience 18 times, which was unthinkable for quite reserved English public!
In emigration, besides creative career and teaching, Mathilda Kschessinskaya was also engaged in writing memoirs (for the first time published in Paris in 1960, and its first Russian edition saw the light in Moscow in 1992).
The well-known ballerina was married. Her spouse was the grand duke Andrey Vladimirovich - one of the grandsons of Alexander II. The couple gave birth to their son - the highest prince Vladimir Andreyevich Romanovsky-Krasinsky (1902 — 1974).
Mathilda-Marie Feliksovna Kschessinskaya lived a long eventful life and died in Paris on December 6, 1971, just a few months before her 100th jubilee. She was buried on Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Cemetery in one grave with her husband and their son. On her monument there is an epitaph: “The highest princess Maria Feliksovna Romanovskaya-Krasinskaya, the merited ballerina of imperial theaters Kshesinskaya”.

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