Nina Vyroubova: Presentation
by K.L. Kanter
14 November 2009
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Alongside Yvette Chauviré, Nina Vyroubova is the only French ballerina of the 20th Century to have enjoyed a worldwide reputation. Less known though, are her qualities as a human being that made of her, once she had left the stage, an eminent pedagogue who inspired so many vocations.
Born at Gourzof in the Crimea in 1921, her family settled in Paris when she was three years old. Her first dancing lessons were with her mother, followed by lessons with the great exile ballerinas of the Maryinskii Theatre: Vera Trefilova, Olga Preobrajenskaya and Liubov Egorova.
After joining the Paris Opera in 1949, she worked under both Serge Lifar and Viktor Gsovski, but above all, under Maître Brieux.
Nina Vyroubova’s début took place in 1937, as Swanilda in Coppelia at Caen; she then danced with Les Ballets Polonais (1939), Le Ballet Russe de Paris (1940) and as a soloist in the dance recitals that were so popular at the time, notably the Vendredi de la Danse at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre where she met Roland Petit. When the latter founded Les Ballets des Champs-Elysées in 1945, she joined, and he created for her the role of the Belle endormie in Les Forains.
In 1949, when Yvette Chauviré left the Opera, Serge Lifar invited Nina Vyroubova to join as étoile. She danced there until 1956, becoming Lifar’s favourite interpreter (La Dame in Dramma per Musica, La Cigarette in Suite en Blanc, l’Ombre in Mirages in 1949, the title role in Phèdre in 1950, the Bad Queen in Blanche-Neige in 1951, the Fiancée in Noces fantastiques in 1955…). Her Giselle, and her incarnation as the Sylph in Viktor Gsovski’s version of La Sylphide, were legendary.
In 1957, she joined Le Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, where new and varied roles came her way (L’Amour et son destin, La Mort de Narcisse, La Somnambule (1958). in 1961, as she was dancing Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty there, she became Rudolf Nureyev’s first partner in the West. In 1962, she left the Marquis de Cuevas’ troupe to dance internationally. Once her stage career ended, she began to teach at Paris and at Troyes, as well as adjudicating at competitions.
Thanks to her mother’s teaching, Nina Vyroubova had integrated a beautiful and very secure technique, to theatrical skills and a vast palette of pantomime gesture that were very Russian, and that clothed her dance in poetry and mystery, a sphere remote from the French ballerinas of her day. Her petite fille Anne-Marie Sandrini has said: “She had but to raise a hand, or round an arm as her countenance turned towards the light, to bring into being a poetry impossible to describe. The inexplicable became reality.”
14th November 2009