4 Autobiographies of Foreign Ballerinas

4 Autobiographies of Foreign Ballerinas

Inspirational stories of life and stage success were shared by both Russian ballerinas and dancers of foreign origin.  

Bronislava Nijinska: Early Memoirs

There are many books written about the famous brother of the Polish ballerina, Vaslav Nijinsky, both by the great dancer's contemporaries and ballet experts from other times. As for this autobiographical book, it was published unfinished in 1981 in English. 

From 1910 to 1913, the ballerina appeared on stage in the performances of Sergei Diaghilev company; and in 1920, she started a choreography career. Interestingly enough they know the name of Bronislava Nijinska much better in the West than in Russia, where she is rather known as the sister of brilliant Vaslav. 

Admittedly, Nijinska herself devoted most of her memoirs to her brother, telling the readers how the two of them worked with Sergei Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet from 1909 to 1914. The ballerina wrote in detail about her training and recalled famous contemporary ballerinas: 

“Many artists from the Imperial Theatres studied with Cecchetti in his private school, and here I was at nine years of age in the same dancing class with two prima ballerinas, Olga Preobrajenska and Mathilda Kshessinska.”

There are plenty of interesting things on the pages of Nijinska's memoirs — from the ballet learning stories to the brightest episodes of her dancing career. 

Allegra Kent: Once A Dancer

The autobiographical book by the American prima ballerina and George Balanchine’s muse was published in 1997. The ballerina begins her narration from the early years, describing her childhood as dysfunctional. Kent admits that she was ashamed of her parents and talks about how she had to go to work when she was 12. 

Although the girl found herself in her first ballet class at the age of 11, her outstanding abilities and a great desire to take the stage helped her achieve amazing heights. In her autobiography, Kent details her dance career that is primarily associated with New York City Ballet and the personality of George Balanchine. The ballerina’s private life didn’t stay behind the scenes either: she devotes many pages of her autobiography to her husband, photographer Bert Stern.  

Suzanne Farrell, Toni Bentley: Holding On to the Air

Another Balanchine's muse, Farrell first published her memoir in 1990. The reader will find a fascinating success story of a girl from Ohio who was dreaming of the world ballet stage. 

The figure of George Balanchine is among the key ones both in the book and in Suzanne's life. In 1961, he invited the ballerina to join the New York City Ballet company, and cooperation between the choreographer and the dancer gave the world of ballet many masterpieces. Farrell's stage career developed happily: during 28 years in ballet, she danced in over a hundred productions. About a third of the entire repertoire was created especially for her: such renowned masters as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins and Maurice Béjart worked for her. 

In her book, Suzanne Farrell recalls the people with whom she had professional and personal relationships, gives her insights into the way to glory.  

Natalia Strozzi: Easy to Remember...

An Italian princess from an ancient aristocratic family with Russian roots and with Gioconda in her family tree. Strozzi managed to make a mark in the history of ballet. She started learning ballet at the age of 5; at 11, she was already taking lessons from Nureyev.  In an interview, the ballerina recalled:  

“He used to say about me that I was a little girl in life but a real professional on stage. I played with dolls - and shone on the world stages.”

From the age of 14, Strozzi studied at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, then danced on the Mariinsky stage. However, Natalia preferred her family business - winemaking - to a ballet career. She calls her book Easy to Remember... a "farewell to the ballet”. On the pages of her autobiography, she describes her meetings with ballet dancers and cinema actors, musicians and politicians. As the author herself writes in the abstract, “during my career, I had a chance to experience so many unique meetings... It pains me to think that they may... disappear into nowhere. That's why I wrote my memoirs." The book was reprinted in Russia several times.