Picture preview: Anna Pavlova Twentieth Century Ballerina


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The Independent Culture

One of the first dancers from the Imperial Russian Ballet to dance in Western Europe, Anna Pavlova has been awarded near-mythical status as the Prima Ballerina who brought ballet into the 21 Century.

Cut off from her native Russia by the First World War, Pavlova made London her permanent home until her death in 1931. This year marks the centenary of her ownership of Ivy House, the grand Hampstead residence which has since become the London Jewish Cultural Centre.

In celebration of Pavlova’s contribution to ballet, a book of sumptuous images of the dancer has been published with accompanying editorial about her life, Anna Pavlova: Twentieth Century Ballerina by Jane Pritchard with Caroline Hamilton.

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Her progression from young ingénue in Giselle to her signature solo, The Dying Swan, is charted in beautiful images which are taken from publicity material as well as stills from early cinematic recordings of the dancer.

In 1916 the Manchester Guardian wrote: "Next to seeing Pavlova in person, there is no better substitute than seeing her through the mechanism of the kinema". She was a beguiling beauty, as a famous in her day as a modern pop star, and absolutely committed to ballet.

The book includes several portraits of Pavlova wearing her swan costume which, according to her costume-maker Madame Manya "she never wore more than twice without the skirts of the tutu being renewed".

The story goes that on her death bed from pneumonia, Pavlova was told that she required an operation that would save her life but leave her unable to dance.

She refused the surgery, saying: "If I can’t dance then I’d rather be dead", passing away three weeks short of her 50 birthday, clutching her costume from The Dying Swan.

Pavlova was an ardent fundraiser in her lifetime. She organised charity performances to aid victims of Russian famine and opened an orphanage for Russian children at St Cloud, Paris in 1920.

Proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the student scholarship and bursary programme at The Royal Ballet School, London.

Anna Pavlova: Twentieth Century Ballerina [Publisher: Booth-Clibborn Editions], £25 ;www.royal-ballet-school.org.uk