(1925 - )
Maya Mikhailovna Plisetskaya is a Russian ballet
dancer, frequently cited as the greatest ballerina of
Maya Plisetskaya was born
in Moscow into a prominent family of Jewish
artists. She went to school in Spitzbergen,
where her father worked as an engineer.
In 1938, he was executed during the Stalinist purges, while her mother, a silent-film actress,
was deported to Kazakhstan.
Thereupon Maya was adopted by her maternal aunt, the
ballerina Sulamith Messerer (1908-2004), who later founded
the Tokyo Ballet
(1960), defected to the West (1980), and received the
highest civilan honours of Great
Britain and Japan.
Maya studied under the great ballerina of imperial
school, Elizaveta Gerdt. She first performed at the
Bolshoi Theatre when she had just turned 11 years of
age. In 1943, she graduated from the choreographic school
and joined the Bolshoi Ballet, where she would perform
Maya's most acclaimed roles included Odette-Odilia
in Swan Lake (1947) and Aurora in Sleeping
Beauty (1961). In 1958, she was honoured with the
title of the People's Artist of the USSR and married
the young composer Rodion Shchedrin, in whose subsequent
fame she shared.
After Galina Ulanova left the stage in 1960, Maya Plisetskaya
was proclaimed the prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi Theatre. In the Soviet screen version
of Anna Karenina, she played Princess Tverskaya.
In 1971, her husband wrote a ballet on the same subject,
where she would play the leading role. Anna Karenina
was also her first attempt at choreography. Other choreographers
who created ballets for her include Yury Grigorovich,
Roland Petit, Alberto Alonso, and Maurice Bejart.
In the 1980s, Plisetskaya and Shchedrin spent much
time abroad, where she worked as the artistic director
of the Rome Opera
Ballet and the Spanish National Ballet of Madrid.
At the age of 65, she finally retired from the Bolshoi
as a soloist. Since 1994, she has been presiding over
the annual international ballet competitions called Maya.
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