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Mathilde Kschessinska
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Dancer
    (August 31, 1872-December 6, 1971)
    Born in Ligovo, Russia
    Prima ballerina of the Russian Imperial Ballet
    Notable ballets included ‘La Sylphide,’ ‘Esmerelda,’ ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘The Nutcracker’
    Performed in ‘Swan Lake’ with Vaslav Nijinsky and the Ballet Russes in London (1911)
    That last name is a bitch to spell.
    She was mistress of the future Tzar, Nicholas II.
    After Nicholas married Alexandra, she began dating two of his cousins, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich and Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich.
    When she got pregnant, she was unsure which Grand Duke was the father. (Although Andrei officially was named the father, mainly because he ended up marrying Kschessinska.)
    She used her connections to the ruling Romanov dynasty to improve her position in the Imperial Ballet.
    Imperial Ballet Master Marius Petipa called her ‘that nasty little swine’ in his diaries.
    Her graduation performance was attended by Tzar Alexander III, who told her at a supper after the dance that she would be ‘the glory and adornment of our ballet.’
    She was the first Russian ballet dancer to perform 32 consecutive fouettes en tournant (‘whipped turns’ done in place on one leg), a feat previously done only by Italian ballerinas and considered at the time one of the supreme achievements in dance.
    After the Russian Revolution, she settled in Paris and became a teacher; her notable pupils included Margot Fonteyn, Tamara Toumanova, Tatiana Riabouchinska, and Maurice Bejart.

Credit: C. Fishel


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