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Markova, Alicia 1910-2004

MARKOVA, Alicia 1910-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born December 1, 1910, in London, England; died December 2, 2004, in Bath, England. Ballet dancer, educator, and author. Often remembered for her remarkable performances in the ballet Giselle, Markova was one of the greatest ballerinas of the twentieth century and the founder of the English National Ballet. Born Lillian Alicia Marks, she demonstrated a natural gift for dance at a very young age, when her mother took her to Miss Thorne's Dancing Academy. Later rejected as a pupil by Seraphine Astafieva, who thought the girl's mother presumptuous to compare her daughter to the great Pavlova, the dancer later relented and took the aspiring dancer under her wing. Three years later, when Marks was fourteen, Astafieva arranged an audition with the Russian Ballet, and Marks was accepted. All non-Russian performers at the ballet were required to change their names to something that sounded more Slavic, and so Marks became Markova. Markova performed in a number of children's ballets, but when the company disbanded she returned to London in 1929. She appeared with a number of groups, such as the Ballet Club, the Ballet Rambert, and the Vic-Wells Ballet, the last the forerunner of the Royal Ballet. Along with Anton Dolin, whom she first met at Astafieva's school, she founded the Markova-Dolin Ballet in 1934. Other associations would follow, including the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1938 until 1941, the Ballet Theater, and, in the United States, the American version of the Markova-Dolin Ballet. Back in England in the late 1940s, she founded the London Festival Ballet with Dolin, which group later became the English National Ballet. Markova performed regularly with this troupe through 1952, after which, for the next eleven years, she limited herself to guest performances. As a dancer, the ninety-eight-pound Markova was renowned for her sensitive performances of such ballet standards as Giselle, Swan Lake, and Les Sylphides. She was also noted for her remarkable range of interpretation, startling audiences with her fiery gypsy Zemphira in Aleko, for example. In her later years, Markova focused on teaching and directing. She directed the Metropolitan Opera Ballet from 1963 until 1969, and was a professor of ballet and performing arts at Cincinnati University from 1970 to 1973. In 1973 she was named governor of the Royal Ballet in London and taught at a variety of ballet schools. Named a commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1958 and dame commander in 1963, Markova was the author of two autobiographies: Giselle and I (1960) and Markova Remembers (1986).



New York Times, December 3, 2004, p. A21.

Times (London, England), December 3, 2004, p. 82.

Washington Post, December 5, 2004, p. C10.

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