History, Politics & Society
This book explores the relationships between dancers and their teachers, and classical ballet pedagogy through the life of Maria Zybina. It was inspired by the author’s direct connection through Zybina and her teachers.
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Relatively little has been written about how ballet teachers become teachers themselves and how each generation passes on its experience to the next. The teacher-dancer relationship within the context of the Russian classical tradition is a theme of “A Life Well Danced”. It is presented through the lens of a young girl who lived through emigration and displacement at the time of the Russian Revolution, who experienced this again as an adult after the Second World War and who went on to establish a successful career as a teacher, examiner and choreographer. The book also touches on the teaching and performing of European character dance which is also an under-appreciated field.
“A Life Well Danced” was inspired by the author’s direct connection through Zybina and her teachers, Nicolai Legat in London, Evgenia Eduardova in Berlin and Elena Poliakova in Belgrade, to the flowering of Russian classical ballet in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Marius Petipa was choreographing works such as Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. An interview with Zybina provides the framework for material in memoirs and first-hand accounts that are drawn upon for their lively descriptions of the Imperial Theatre School and the Mariinsky ballet company in St. Petersburg.
Born in Moscow, Zybina and her family fled to Europe at the time of the Russian Revolution. Her first marriage to an English diplomat took her to Belgrade and a career as a dancer and ballet mistress in Yugoslavia. The Second World War saw her still in Yugoslavia with her second husband when they and a number of close friends worked in intelligence on behalf of the Allies. A strange twist of events, brought them to England where Zybina established her ballet school and became an examiner for the Federation of Russian Classical Ballet and the Society of Russian Style Ballet Schools.
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