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18 April 2021

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SHE KNEW HOW TO KEEP THE BAR HIGH…

bmir, Business mir #14 - 2009-06 MAIL PRINT 
Bolshoi’s prima ballerina Yekaterina Maximova died of heart failure on April 28.
That day, she was expected for a rehearsal at Andrei Petrov’s Kremlin Ballet by noon, but she never came.
The news of her death was a shock to her colleagues and found her husband, Vladimir Vasilyev, in Italy.
She had just turned 70, and no one suspected that it was her last anniversary.
Despite all the old ballet injuries, she looked like a queen.
She was called The Clam of the Bolshoi Theatre. She was one of the precious few representatives of the true Russian intelligentsia and never became involved in the intrigues and squabbles that unwrapped on Russia’s main stage.
Her fans did their best to show their appreciation. In Brazil, they made a huge heart of carnations, after the Nutcracker before the New Year, they brought her small fir trees, and in Siberia, they brought her a pineapple because flowers were hard to find. After her first tour in America, critics nicknamed her “the Bolshoi’s baby ballerina.” Petite, delicate and graceful, she flew on the stage like a small elf.
The fate had generously endowed Maximova. Her great-grandmother was a cousin of composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and sister of composer Alexander Siloti. Her grandfather, Gustav Spet, was a well-known philosopher and translator of Hegel, Dickens and Byron. Little Katya dreamed of becoming a pilot or a ticket collector, but she knew she was destined to become a ballerina after she made her debut as a child actor in an opera on the Bolshoi stage aged just nine.
She entered the Moscow Choreographic School, where, being the seventh grader, she received her first role, that of Masha in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. After the school, she joined the Bolshoi Theatre and immediately, bypassing the corps de ballet, began dancing in leading roles.
Soon everyone in the Soviet Union knew her, and even foreigners learned to say “Yekaterina Maximova” almost without an accent.
A spinal injury at a rehearsal of Ivan the Terrible, with subsequent dislocation, nearly put an end to her ballet career. Some even doubted she would ever be able to walk, let alone dance, again. However, she got over it with the help of her husband and her will. For as long as a year, she wore a special corset and made exercises Vasilyev had developed for her.
On March 10, 1976, Yekaterina Maximova again performed at the Bolshoi, dancing a far from easy part, Giselle. Her first appearance was met with applause so loud that it was impossible to hear the music. Afterwards, the audience watched her every move, catching their breath. Few people know that in many televised ballets Maximova danced after the spine injury, although doctors had said she wouldn’t even walk. She starred in the famous Chekovbased ballet, Anyuta, when she was almost forty.
“Katya is an amazing combination of fragility and strong character,” says artist Boris Messerer.
Her talent was many-sided. At first, she was thought of as a lyric ballerina.
But she dreamed of the role of the spirited Kitri in Don Quixote.
“At first, I was considered a purely lyrical ballerina. Giselle, Sylphide in Chopiniana, Maria in the Fountain of Bakhchisarai, Cinderella, and Muse in Paganini,” she recalled. “They tried to talk me out of it, saying, “Are you mad? You cannot take such a risk! Kitri is not your character at all!” Even Galina Sergeevna Ulanova said, “Well, you can have a try, of course,” but she didn’t believe it.
“But Kitri succeeded, and it was funny to hear people who had seen me first in Don Quixote say, “Maximova is the perfect Kitri. She cannot dance Giselle as well, can she?” Now everyone saw her as a comic actress. But Maximova made a great appearance in a completely different choreography, performing the tough Rosa in the Blue Angel and the tragic Juliet in Roland Petit’s Romeo and Juliet.
After that, she was flooded with letters saying, “We used to respect you, but you are showing what can only be done in bed!” However, time has put everything in the perspective, and hardly anyone now doubts that she was, no she will always be, the ballet genius of the 20th century.
Ballerina Ilze Liepa shares her memories of this amazing woman: “When I was a kid, father once took me to the Actor House’s vacation home. There I met Yekaterina Sergeevna, who was recovering three after an injury in the gym.
I already wanted to be a ballerina, so I tried to copy her movements. She had unbelievably pliable feet with a very beautiful arch. I watched closely how her feet moved in different pas. Then, at home, I put my feet in the bed’s frame to straighten them like Yekaterina Sergeevna’s.” Anyone who saw Maximova dance even once could never forget it. Irina Miroshnichenko, a star of Oleg Yefremov’s MKhAT drama theatre, did not miss a single premiere in which Maximova and Vasilyev danced. It was impossible to get a ticket to the legendary couple’s performance. The actress still remembers the triumphant Don Quixote and a rain of carnations at the Bolshoi. “I bought carnations on purpose, as the symbol of the era,” Irina recalls. “When Katya ended her performance as Kitri, red carnations fell to her feet from above.” Maximova devoted fifty years of her life to the Bolshoi. She always danced with Vasilyev. In 1972, the Paris Classic Dance Academy named them the world’s best duo. The theatre was packed and there were also crowds backstage when the Nutcracker or Spartacus was on. “Her secret spirit was expressed in dancing,” says Sergei Yursky, Russia’s people’s artist.
She never tried to be fashionable, but set the trend. Many envied the fact that she danced not only in classic ballets, but also in those by Maurice Bejart, John Cranko and Roland Petit. She was the first ballerina to dance on high heels in Bryantsev’s Galatea, something unheard-of in classic ballet. “The emotions I experienced while watching the television film Pygmalion were something out of this world,” confesses director Mark Zakharov. “They are beyond everything. I just cannot describe them.” In Vasilyev’s Fuete, Maximova played against Valentin Gaft. He had never had such a partner. He described her as a “living miracle” and devoted poems to her.
Many people jokingly called Maximova “Madam No” for her habit of refusing interviews, offers and photocalls, but she took on the riskiest experiments. Her courage and openness impressed Franco Zeffirelli, who invited Maximova and Vasilyev to star in La Traviata in 1982. Seven years later, Claude Lelouch made a film about the legendary couple, and the world began calling them Volodya and Katya.
Last autumn, Vasilyev and Maximova celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, and in February, it was her 70th birthday. They planned to stage Anyuta in Krasnoyarsk. Her death – so unexpected – was a shock. “She came to the theatre until the last day. She was with her students to the very end,” said Sergei Filin, Russia’s merited artist.
She had 11 students at two theatres, the Bolshoi and the Kremlin Ballet. All of them were primas with their own repertoires.
As is the tradition, her fans, friends and colleagues applauded her last exit in Teatralnaya Square and then at the Novodevichy Cemetery. Maximova was buried close to her teacher, the legendary Ulanova.
bmir, Business mir #14 - 2009-06  MAIL PRINT 
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Ежедневные новости и аналитика из Швейцарии и Европы, политика, экономика, интервью

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