Messerer, Asaf Mikhailovich

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MESSERER, ASAF MIKHAILOVICH (1903–1992), dancer and teacher of the Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow. Messerer, who was born in Vilna, graduated from the Bolshoi School in 1921 and was soon dancing important roles, including Siegfried in Swan Lake. He had a brilliant technique, performing feats of virtuosity seldom accomplished by men. He revolted against traditional mime, which he replaced with expressive acting, and was equally brilliant in danseur-noble parts, and in demi-character roles. His first choreographic work, in collaboration with Igor Moiseyev, was a new production of La fille mal gardée (1930). He restaged the last act of Swan Lake in 1936, and his later works include Sulla (1952) and Ballet School (1962). Messerer retired from dancing in 1954, but remained with the Bolshoi company as a teacher and principal choreographer. sulamith messerer (1908–2004), Asaf 's sister, was also a dancer and teacher for the Bolshoi Ballet. She entered the company from the Bolshoi School in 1926. Her first important role was that of Lise in La fille mal gardée (1929). Other outstanding roles were those of Swanilda in Coppélia and Kitri in Don Quixote. She was an athletic dancer more suited to demi-character than classical roles. She became a teacher in the Bolshoi School in 1938, and continued as a principal instructor after retiring from dancing in 1950. Asaf Mikhailovich and Sulamith Messerer received the title of People's Artist of the U.S.S.R. The ballerina Maya *Plisetskaya was their niece. In 1980 Sulamith Messerer defected to England, continuing to coach there.


M. Abrahamski (ed.), Bol'shoy Teatr sssr (Russ., 1958), 398–403.

[Marcia B. Siegel]

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Messerer, Asaf Mikhailovich

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