Alexandra Danilova

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Danilova as Fanny Cerrito in Pas de Quatre, 1948

Aleksandra Dionisyevna Danilova (Russian: Александра Дионисьевна Данилова; November 20, 1903 – July 13, 1997) was a Russian-born prima ballerina who became an American citizen. In 1989, she was recognized for lifetime achievements in ballet as a Kennedy Center Honoree.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Peterhof, Russia on November 20, 1903, she trained at the Russian Imperial Ballet School in Leningrad (formerly and currently St. Petersburg).[2] She was one of the few Russian-trained ballerinas to tour outside Russia. Her first professional post was as a member of the St. Petersburg's Imperial Ballet.


In 1924, she and George Balanchine left Russia. They were soon picked up by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes; Danilova as a dancer, Balanchine as a choreographer. Danilova also toured for years with the Ballets Russes under Sergei Diaghilev, then with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo after Diaghilev's death.[3] Her last ballet performance was in 1957, but she made her Broadway musical comedy debut in 1958 in Oh, Captain!. She appeared in a single scene, a dance with the show's star, Tony Randall, which stole the show. The show was a commercial failure and quickly closed.

She was in financial straits when she came across Balanchine on the street in 1964. When he heard of her plight he instantly hired her to teach at the School of American Ballet. In 1965, she sought and received approval from Balanchine to produce a spring workshop performance for the students. These workshops became an important preview for many outstanding dancers.[4] One of the most valued members of the faculty, she remained there until her retirement in 1989.[4]

She had a long intimate relationship with Balanchine after his divorce from Tamara Geva but they never married. Although that romance ended she and Balanchine continued their professional partnership, as she taught many of his dancers at the School of American Ballet, and choreographed a version of Coppélia with Balanchine. She published an autobiography called Choura, her own personal nickname. She had a small role in the movie The Turning Point as a ballet teacher.


Danilova died on July 13, 1997 in New York.[2] She had a Russian Orthodox funeral service, and was interred at Oakland Cemetery, Sag Harbor, Suffolk County, New York, the same cemetery where George Balanchine is buried.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ accessed 9/1/14
  2. ^ a b Gregory, John (July 15, 1997). "Obituary: Alexandra Danilova". The Independent. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Jack (July 15, 1997). "Alexandra Danilova, Ballerina and Teacher, Dies at 93". The New York Times. 
  4. ^ a b Dunning, Jennifer (May 22, 1989). "Ballet School Gala Benefit Is a Farewell For Teacher". The New York Times. 

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