Spessivtzeva, Olga (1895–1980)

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Spessivtzeva, Olga (1895–1980)

Russian ballerina. Name variations: Olga Spessivtseva. Born in Rostov, Russia, in 1895; died in 1980; daughter of an opera singer; graduated from the Imperial Maryinsky Theater ballet school in 1913.

The daughter of an opera singer, Olga Spessivtzeva was born in 1895 in Rostov, Russia, and grew up in an orphanage in St. Petersburg. With her sister Zinaida and brother Alexander, she attended the Imperial Maryinsky Theater ballet school, later named the Kirov, where she studied under Michel Fokine and Agrippina Vaganova . Following her graduation in 1913, Spessivtzeva joined the Maryinsky Ballet and by 1918 was promoted to ballerina, dancing principal roles for the next five years in Esmeralda, Giselle, Chopiniana (Les Sylphides), The Nutcracker, Paquita, Le Corsaire, Bayaderka, The Sleeping Beauty, The Daughter of Pharoah, Don Quixote, and Swan Lake. While on a leave of absence, she also toured the United States with Sergei Diaghilev's Ballet Russe in 1916, dancing with Vaslav Nijinsky in the Blue Bird and Le Spectre de la Rose.

Reputedly the greatest Russian Romantic ballerina of her generation, Spessivtzeva rejoined the Ballet Russe in 1921, dancing Aurora in Sleeping Beauty (that production titled Sleeping Princess) with Pierre Vladimirov. In 1923, along with Alexandra Danilova , Spessivtzeva left Russia for good. She first worked with the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for one year, before joining the Paris Opéra where she remained until 1932, rising to première danseuse étoile in 1931. During an Australian tour with the Victor Dandré-Alexander Levitov company, the ballerina began to reveal the first signs of chronic depression. In 1943, she suffered a nervous breakdown, and was confined to a mental hospital for the next 20 years. Friends eventually pushed for her discharge, and Spessivtzeva lived out her days at Alexandra Tolstoy 's Russian settlement, the Tolstoy Farm in Rockland County, New York.

suggested reading:

Dolin, Anton. The Sleeping Ballerina, 1960.