Makarova, Natalia (1940—)

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Makarova, Natalia (1940—)

Russian ballerina . Born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia, in 1940; studied ballet at Leningrad's Vaganova School, 1953–59; married Edward Karkar (a businessman), in 1976; children: son Andre Michael (b. 1978).

Born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), Russia, in 1940, Natalia Makarova entered the famed Vaganova School of Ballet when she was 13 years old. She was enrolled in a special accelerated instruction program that compressed the school's normal nine-year curriculum into six years. Graduating in 1959, she immediately joined the Kirov Ballet, headquartered in Leningrad, and rose quickly to the rank of ballerina. Only two years later, Makarova created a sensation when she danced in Giselle in the Kirov's first appearance at London's Covent Garden. Following her triumph in London, she joined the Kirov in touring throughout the United States. While with the company, Makarova danced in such classic Russian ballets as Aurora and as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake. In 1965, competing at the Second International Ballet Competition at Varna, Bulgaria, she was awarded the Gold Medal.

On September 4, 1970, while performing with the Kirov in London, Makarova defected, requesting political asylum in the United Kingdom. By the end of 1970, she had signed with New York's American Ballet Theater (ABT), making her debut in Giselle in December of that year. Described as possessing great classical style with a "mysterious haunting stage presence," Makarova danced a number of roles in the company's extensive repertoire during her years at the ABT, and worked with such noted choreographers as George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Glen Tetley, and Antony Tudor. Less than two years after her debut with the ABT, Makarova began what was to be a lengthy and mutually beneficial relationship with the Royal Ballet of London. Among the ballets in her repertoire with the Royal Ballet were Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides, Manon, Song of the Earth, Concerto, Cinderella, A Month in the Country, Voluntaries, Dances at a Gathering, Serenade, Elite Syncopations, Rituals,Ninette de Valoi s' Checkmate, and Bronislava Nijinska 's Les Biches. Her last performance with the Royal Ballet came in 1989, when she danced in choreographer Kenneth Macmillan's modern version of Romeo and Juliet. Through the years, Makarova appeared as a guest dancer with the leading ballet companies of the world, including Roland Petit's Ballets de Marseille, the Paris Opera Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Stuttgart Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, London Festival Ballet, and Bejart's Ballet of the 20th Century.

In addition to her work as a ballerina, Makarova staged the "Kingdom of the Shades" from La Bayadere for the ABT in 1974. Six years later, in 1980, she staged a full-length production of La Bayadere, making the ABT the first company in the West to present this work. For this production, Makarova choreographed a reconstruction of the ballet's final act, which had not been staged anywhere since 1919.

Less than a year before her retirement from dance in 1989, Makarova had a joyful reunion with the Kirov when she danced an excerpt from Swan Lake during a Kirov appearance in London. Just about five months later, on February 1, 1989, she performed once again on the Kirov's home stage, becoming the first artistic exile from Russia to be invited to perform back in her homeland. The return to Leningrad was captured on film and later shown as part of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) documentary, Makarova Returns.

In 1976, Natalia Makarova had married businessman Edward Karkar, with whom she had a son Andre Michael in February 1978. Outside of ballet, she became involved in a number of television productions while in the United Kingdom, including the widely praised "Ballerina" series, produced for the BBC in 1987; Channel 4's "In a Class of Her Own"; "Assoluta" for the BBC; and a special called "Natasha." On the stage, Makarova had earlier made her Broadway debut in a musical comedy when she appeared in a revival of George Abbott's On Your Toes, for which she received the Tony Award for the Best Actress in a Musical. She recreated her role in On Your Toes in London in 1984, winning the Laurence Olivier Award. In 1991, after her retirement from ballet, Makarova made her straight acting debut in a production of Tovarich at England's Chichester Festival. She performed in Two for the Seesaw in St. Petersburg and Moscow the following year. In 1994, as part of the BBC's acclaimed "Great Railway Journeys" series, she wrote and presented a segment on the train journey from St. Petersburg to Tashkent.

suggested reading:

Marakova, Natalia. A Dance Autobiography, 1979.

Don Amerman , freelance writer, Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania