Prima Ballerinas of the Bolshoi Theater: the 20th Century, Chapter II

Prima Ballerinas of the Bolshoi Theater: the 20th Century, Chapter II

The last century gave the world of ballet many bright and brilliant artists. We’d like to continue our story about the ballerinas, who are associated with the "golden age of the Bolshoi" and with the present time of the theater.

Raisa Struchkova

The ballerina was taught by the great dancer who shone at the beginning of the century, the prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater Elizaveta Gerdt. A combination of the highest classical dance technique and original stage expressiveness helped Struchkova create her own unique image and become one of the brightest ballet stars of the 20th century. On stage of the Bolshoi, she debuted in the solo part of Spring in the ballet Cinderella to the music by Sergei Prokofiev. A few years later, the dancer performed the title role, and since then the stage image of Cinderella became one of her favorites. Struchkova also danced the leading parts in the "golden" ballet classics: the audience applauded her Odette-Odile, Giselle, Raymonda and Princess Aurora. 

The ballerina performed more than 50 roles on stage of the Bolshoi Theater, and after finishing her dancing career, she was teaching and educating other talented artists. Once Raisa Stepanovna summed up her long career with the phrase, “I lived the Bolshoi Theater,” and this love was always mutual. Struchkova’s contemporaries recalled that everybody adored her at the Bolshoi - from stage partners to theatrical staff - they called her "our Raechka".  

Ekaterina Maximova

One of the brilliant students of Raisa Struchkova, Ekaterina Maximova, began her ballet career at the Moscow Choreographic School. In 1958, she joined the Bolshoi Ballet company, where she first worked with another star mentor - the prima ballerina Galina Ulanova. 

Maximova’s stage debut was the part of Masha in The Nutcracker ballet. The strength of the ballerina was in her great academic base: springy jumps, light rotations and masterful attention to every detail. 

The career of Ekaterina Maximova was bright and dramatic. Together with her husband, dancer Vladimir Vasiliev, they presented the audience with many outstanding duet roles. But one day a tragedy happened: the ballerina injured her spine at a rehearsal. Doctors doubted that Maximova would be able to walk, but she managed to return to the big stage. Ekaterina Sergeevna's ballet fame spread beyond the borders of the country: she successfully toured Europe and the USA, danced at the Italian La Scala and the French Grand Opera, the British Covent Garden and the South American Columbus. 

Following the dance career, a teaching career began. Here, Maximova did everything to the max too: in 1980, she graduated from the Russian Institute of Theatre Arts (GITIS) and over time became a choreography professor there. 

Maria Alexandrova

She began to study the art of classical dance at the Moscow Academy of Choreography, where Sofia Golovkina was the rector. Maria Alexandrova's professional career began with two major victories: first, she became a finalist of the Eurovision Young Dancers competition, then received the first prize and a gold medal in the Soloists category at the Moscow Ballet Competition. 

In 1997, she joined the Bolshoi Ballet, where she made a meteoric career, almost immediately moving from the corps de ballet to a soloist. Then Alexandrova achieved the highest status of a prima ballerina, but years later she preferred to become a “free ballerina” and left the theater company at the beginning of 2017. Since then, she has been working under a contract with the Bolshoi Theater and not only them. 

The audience fell in love with this prima ballerina for many of her roles, but the part of Kitri from the ballet Don Quixote turned out to be especially brilliant in her performance. For the Classical Dancer in The Bright Stream ballet, the ballerina received the Golden Mask award. 

Today, Maria Alexandrova is still completely immersed in her creative work: not long ago, the artist participated in the World Ballet Festival in Tokyo, she regularly appears on stage of the Bolshoi and goes on tour. Maya Plisetskaya once called Alexandrova the most "intellectual ballerina" of the Bolshoi Theater, and this definition reflects the specificity of Maria Alexandrova's style very accurately. 

Evgenia Obraztsova

She got her love for ballet and stage talent from her family: Evgenia Obraztsova's parents were also artists, and she spent a lot of time in the theater since her early childhood. In 2002, after graduating from the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, the ballerina made her debut with the Mariinsky Theater. She was immediately entrusted with the main female role in the ballet Romeo and Juliet, and this was a unique case in the history of the theater when such a young debutante took the stage as Juliet. 

A year later, the victory at the Moscow International Ballet Competition and Contest of Choreographers named after Yu.N. Grigorovich marked a new take-off point. The ballerina went on a personal tour, after which she began working with the largest theaters in the world - La Scala, Covent Garden, Berlin Opera, American Ballet Theater and others. 

Her roles in Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theater were bright and memorable. A new stage in the prima ballerina's career began in 2012: she joined the Bolshoi Ballet company. Five years later Obraztsova appeared on the ballet stage as Juliet again - this time, in a production directed by Alexei Ratmansky for the Bolshoi Theater. 

The ballerina successfully acts as a prima ballerina of the country's major theater, takes part in tours and appears on stages of different theaters around the globe as a guest star. 

Svetlana Zakharova

The future prima of the Bolshoi Theater studied the basics of ballet at the Kiev Choreographic School, and at the age of 16, after winning the international dance competition Vaganova-Prix, she was admitted to the last year of studies at the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet.   

The Academy graduate, Svetlana Zakharova joined the Mariinsky Theater company as a soloist right away. In 1996, she debuted on stage in the character of Maria in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. In the same season, she performed the role of Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty, the Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote and Masha in The Nutcracker. 

A year later, Zakharova danced Giselle, and received the highest ballet status of a prima ballerina at the age of 18. 

During 1999-2000, the ballerina had a great tour. Zakharova performed at the Grand Opera: La Bayadère with her participation was appreciated at the government level, bringing her the French Order of the Arts and the Letters. The Russian prima ballerina also danced at the world's leading ballet venues - with the New York City Ballet, the Bavarian State Opera and La Scala in Milan. By the way, in Italy, Svetlana Zakharova became the first Russian dancer to achieve the status of an etoile. 

A prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater and a sought-after world-class artist, Svetlana Zakharova is a real star of the ballet world today.