They fled to Shanghai, China, where they lived for a year, then moved to Cairo. Shanghai has sometimes been misreported as Tamara Toumanova's place of birth. After spending time in refugee camps, the family settled in Paris, where there was a large Russian émigré community.
After moving to Paris, Toumanova was given piano lessons and studied ballet with Olga Preobrajenska, who she described as her "first and only permanent teacher" and an "immortal friend". At the age of six, the ballerina Anna Pavlova invited young Toumanova to perform in one of her gala concerts (08.06.1925). Toumanova danced a polka choreographed by Preobrajenska. The girl was ten when she made her debut at the Paris Opera as a child étoile in the ballet L'Éventail de Jeanne (for which ten French composers wrote the music). Toumanova's dancing astounded critics.
In 1931, when Toumanova was twelve years old, George Balanchine saw her in ballet class and engaged her for de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, along with Irina Baronova, 12, and Tatiana Riabouchinska, 14. The three girls were an immediate success, and the writer Arnold Haskell dubbed them the "baby ballerinas". Toumanova quickly became recognised as a young prodigy of immense talent. She came to be called "The Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet", because, as A.V. Coton[who?] wrote, "she was the loveliest creature in the history of the ballet", with black silky hair, deep brown eyes and pale almond skin. Toumanova was considered the most glamorous of the trio. Throughout her dynamic career, her mother was her devoted companion, nursemaid, dresser, agent and manager – she was always at the helm.
Balanchine created the role of the "Young Girl" for Toumanova in his ballet Cotillon and had her star in his Concurrence and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Léonide Massine also worked closely with Toumanova in the creation of many of his ballets. She played the part of the Top in his Jeux d'Enfants. Balanchine created a role for her in his Le Palais de Cristal (since re-titled Symphony in C) in 1947 at the Paris Opera.
In 1936, while Toumanova was performing ballet in Chicago, an 18-year-old boy named Burr Tillstrom came to see her perform. Following the ballet, Burr went backstage to meet her. As they talked, Toumanova and Tillstrom became friends. Some time later, Tillstrom showed her a favorite puppet he had made and she, surprised by his revelation, exclaimed, "Kukla" (Russian for "puppet"). Burr Tillstrom went on to create a very early (1947) television show for children, titled, Kukla, Fran and Ollie.
Peter Anastos. "A conversation with Tamara Toumanova", Ballet Review, vol. 11, no 4, Winter 1984, pp. 33–57
1925 (August 6, 1925) First performs before the public in the polka choreographed by Preobrajenska (to Liadov), during an Anna Pavlova gala at the Palais du Trocadero, Paris (Pavlova selected Toumanova from Preobrajenska's school).
1929 Creates first principal role on 4 March as guest etoile with the Paris Opera Ballet, performing the Valse (to Ibert), the Polka (to Milhaud), the Rondeau (to Auric), and the Kermesse-Valse (to Schmitt), in the Yvonne Franck/Alice Bourgat one-act ballet in ten parts for students, L'Even-tail de Jeanne.
1929–30 Performs with the Paris Opera Ballet in Monte Carlo, in Brussels, and in Geneva at the League of Nations.
1931 Joins the Blum-de Basil Les Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo at Balanchine's invitation.
1932 Creates principal roles with the Ballets Russes: the Young Girl in Balanchine's Cotillon; the Girl in his La Concurrence; Lucille in his Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme; in the Valse in his Suites de danse; in his Classical Ballet section for the opera-ballet Patrie; the Chinese Woman and a Poppy in his dances for the opera Fay-yen-Fah; a Chinese Porcelain in his dances for the opera Turandot; in his Grand pasclassique for the operetta A Night in Venice; and the Top in Massine's Jeux d'enfants. Recreates the Ballerina in Fokine's Petrushka and the Mazurka and the Valse pas de deux in Les Sylphides. Privately studies the classics and choreographic theory with Balanchine. Seasons in Monte Carlo and Paris and tour of Europe.
1933 Joins the Balanchine-James Les Ballets 1933 at Balanchine's invitation. Creates principal roles: in the Tema con variazioni and Finale in his Mozartiana; the Ballerina in his Les Songes; and the Young Girl in his Fastes. Seasons in Paris and London. Rejoins Les Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Creates principal role in Massine's Choreartium (to Brahms's Fourth Symphony). Season in London, tour of Britain, first New York season.
1934 Creates with the Ballets Russes the Mexican Girl in Massine's Union Pacific and a principal role in Lichine's Les Imaginaires. Recreates the Miller's Wife with Massine in his Le Tricorne and the Tarantella in his La Boutique fantasque; Odette in Swan Lake Act II; and the title role in Fokine's Firebird. Tours of the United States, Canada, Central America, and Europe; seasons in Paris, London, Mexico City, Barcelona, Havana, Montreal, and New York.
1935 Creates with de Basil's Ballets Russes the Poor Couple, with Massine, in his Jardin public; a principal role in his Le Bal; and Nijinska's Lezginka for a Covent Garden gala. Adds to her reper¬tory Aurora in Le Menage d'Aurore and the Girl in Fokine's La Spectre de la rose.
1934 The Comet (cr) in Les Imaginaires (Lichine), de Basil’s Ballets Russes, London Tarantella in La Boutique fantasque (revival; Massine), de Basil’s Ballets Russes, London
The Miller’s Wife in Le Tricorne (Massine), (de Basil's) Monte Carlo Ballet Russe, Chicago
The Mexican Girl (cr) in Union Pacific (Massine), (de Basil’s) Monte Carlo Ballet Russe, Philadelphia
1935 The Poor Couple (cr) in Jardin public (Massine), (de Basil’s) Monte Carlo Ballet Russe, Chicago
Principal dancer (cr) in Le Bal (Massine), (de Basil’s) Monte Carlo Ballet, Chicago
1936 The Beloved (cr) in Symphonie fantastique (Massine), de Basil’s Ballets Russes, London
1938 Title role in Giselle (after Petipa, Coralli, Perrot) (Denham’s) Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, London .
1940 Illusion (cr) in La Lutte eternelle (Schwezoff), Original Ballet Russe, Sydney
Swanilda in Coppelia (Obukhov after Petipa, Saint-Leon), Original Ballet Russe, Sydney
1941 Third and Fourth Movements (cr) in Balustrade (Balanchine), Original Ballet Russe, New York
Ariadne (cr) in Labyrinth (Massine), Denham’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, New York
The Cakewalk (cr) in Saratoga (Massine), Denham’s Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, New York
1944 The Girl (cr) in Moonlight Sonata (Massine), Ballet Theatre, New York
Principal dancer (cr) in Harvest Time (Nijinska), Ballet Theatre, New York
Kitri in Don Quixote Pas de Deux (Obukhov after Petipa), Ballet Theatre. New York
1944–45 Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker Pas de deux (Dolin after Ivanov), Ballet Theatre, New York
Odile in Black Swan Pas de deux (Swan Lake, Act III; Dolin after Petipa), Ballet Theatre, New York
1947 Second Movement (cr) in Palais de cristal (later called Symphony in C; Balanchine), Paris Opera Ballet, Paris
Title role in Giselle (Sergeyev after Petipa, Coralli, Perrot), Paris Opera Ballet, Paris
1949 The Duchess (cr) in Del Amor y de la muerte (Ricarda), Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, Paris
The Infanta (cr) in Le Coeur de diamond (Lichine), Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, Monte Carlo
1950 Title role (cr) in Phedre (Serge Lifar), Paris Opera Ballet, Paris
Principal dancer (cr) in L'Inconnue (Lifar), Paris Opera Ballet, Paris
Principal dancer (cr) in La Fee d’Aibee (Aveline), Paris Opera Ballet, Versailles
Principal dancer (cr) in La Pierre enchantee (Lifar), Paris Opera Ballet, Paris
1951 Potiphar’s Wife (cr) in Leggenda di Giuseppe (The Legend of Joseph; Wallmann), La Scala, Milan
Principal dancer (cr) in La Vita dell’uomo (Wallmann), La Scala, Milan
1952 Principal dancer (cr) in Reve (pas de deux; Dolin), London Festival Ballet, London
1956 Principal dancer (cr) in The Seven Deadly Sins (Char- rat), La Scala, Milan
The Dance of the Seven Veils (cr) in Salome (opera; mus. Strauss, chor. Toumanova), La Scala, Milan
Principal dancer (cr) in Epoque romantique (also chor.), Piccola Scala, Milan
The Princess (cr) in Le Fanfare pour le Prince (Taras), Celebration of the Marriage of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly, Monte Carlo
In his obituary, British choreographer John Gregory was said to describe Toumanova as a "remarkable artist – a great personality who never stopped acting. It is impossible to think of Russian ballet without her."
MYRNA OLIVER T. Toumanova; Ballerina and Actress Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1996 
Ilia Tavberidze. The Black Pearl of Ballet. Tamara Toumanova. Arabesque, , 
Уколова Ю. В. ТАМАРА ТУМАНОВА (1919–1996) «ЧЕРНАЯ ЖЕМЧУЖИНА РУССКОГО БАЛЕТА», ж. Вестник Академии русского балета им. А.Я. Вагановой. 2007 ISSN 1681-8962, №18, с.279–291
Мейлах Михаил Борисович Эвтерпа, ты? Художественные заметки. Беседы с артистами русской эмиграции. Том 1. Балет ID 4251015 Изд.: Новое литературное обозрение ISBN 978-5-86793-629-7; 2008 г.-стр.65–77 (разговор с Тамарой Тумановой, 1992г.)
Юрий Григорович ЗОЛОТОЕ ЯБЛОКО СЕРЖА ЛИФАРЯ. Последнее интервью выдающейся балерины XX века Тамары Тумановой Независимая газета №190, 10.10.1996 
Francis Mason Tamara Toumanova (1919–1996) Ballet Review 24-3 Fall 1996 st.34–62
TOUMANOVA, Tamara. International Dictionary of Ballet: VOL. 2 L – Z. P. 1427-1430, St James Press, 1993 ISBN 1558620842, 9781558620841
Tamara Tchinarova Tamara Toumanova. (Biography) Dancing times. July 1997, p. 889–891, 893.
Peter Anastos. A conversation with Tamara Toumanova. Ballet review. v 11, no 4, Winter 1984, p 33-57.
^A dos tintas by Josep Mengual Català. Random House Mondadori (2013)
^Arab, Armenian, Syrian, Lebanese, East Indian, Pakistani, and Bangla Deshi Americans: a study guide and source book, Kananur V. Chandras, R&E Research Associates, 1977, p. 44
^Прекрасная Маруся Сава: русская эмиграция на концертных площадках и в ресторанах Америки, Михаил Иванович Близнюк – 2007
^The American Dancer, vol 14, issue 2 (1941): "Seen on New York's 57th Street, the hub of the ballet social world: Tamara Toumanova, Leon and Hercelia Danielian and William Saroyan, all within a block of each other; one more Armenian and the street would have been roped off..."