Obituary: Kaleria Fedicheva

Kaleria Ivanovna Fedicheva, ballerina: born Ust-Ijori, near Leningrad 20 July 1936; died Maribor, Slovenia 13 September 1994.

Kaleria Fedicheva was a leading ballerina with the Kirov Ballet, and held that position for almost two decades during the Fifties and Sixties. A contemporary of such dancers as Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, she won acclaim when she toured with the Kirov in the United States.

A physical beauty, she nevertheless lacked the lyrical finesse one expects from a classical ballerina, but possessed a bravura technique which rendered her more suitable for demie-caractere roles than classical. Probably because of her sultry image, and her outgoing, larger-than-life personality she was much liked by Soviet party officials.

Fedicheva was born in 1936 at Ust-Ijori, near Leningrad. Her father was a party official. At a young age she joined the Leningrad Choreographic Academy, but left when she felt she was not receiving the attention she deserved. Through her father's influence she was allowed to return and study with leading teachers. She graduated in 1955, immediately joined the Kirov Ballet and unexpectedly leapt to fame.

Her appearance in star roles coincided with the appointment of Pyotr Rachinsky as Director of the Kirov. It was said her father was a friend of Rachinsky, but in fact Rachinsky was more partial to his comrade's daughter and very soon developed a passion for her.

At 26 she made her debut in Swan Lake. It was instant stardom: her Black Swan in the third act was electrifying, and she side-stepped the up-and-coming Kolpakova, Sizova, Komleva and Makarova. Within two seasons she was dominating the scene, rather to the consternation of artistic director Konstantin Sergeyev, but to no avail as in such matters he bowed to Rachinsky.

Fedicheva's political power was such that she was able to have the brilliant Valery Panov transferred from the Maly Theatre to partner her; an unheard-of breach of protocol at that time. Panov proved a splendid support with his flying lifts, and his flamboyant style of acting married well with her sensuality. They danced together with a physical esprit that won them considerable popularity with audiences.

Together they danced Don Quixote, Laurencia, Raymonda, La Bayadere, Swan Lake and some heroic ballets which were staged for state occasions. She created a number of roles in Belsky's Leningrad Symphony (1961), Sergeyev's Distant Planet (1963), Boyarsky's The Pearl (1965), Jacobson's Shuralie, Alekzidze's Orestes (1968) and Vinogradov's Prince of Pagodas (1972).

She rehearsed Gertrude in Sergeyev's remarkable Hamlet (never seen in the West), but withdrew before it was produced although the part would have fitted her like a glove. During these years she toured the Soviet Union, Austria, Sweden, Japan, Finland, Norway, Germany and the United States.

Fedicheva's charisma won for her many admirers, and she, being human, sometimes reciprocated. She became fond of Panov and saw to it that Rachinsky, now her lover, arranged better living conditions and privileges for him - favours which Panov had not previously enjoyed, despite his prestige as a dancer of the first rank.

Panov eventually fell from grace and not just with Rachinsky, with whom relations perhaps because of the suspicion that the virile dancer was usurping his territory were strained. Panov grew tired of portering the rather heavy-boned Fedicheva and was heard to say so. And when he accidentally mistimed a lift and suffered the shame of Fedicheva sitting on his chest instead of being airborne at arm's length, it incited her wrath.

This was the beginning of a persecution that developed into a vendetta (aggravated by growing Soviet hostility to Jews) that wrecked Panov's career in the Soviet Union.

I saw her during a Kirov season at Covent Garden in the early Sixties and seeing her in so many classical roles was a little perturbing when there was many choice young ballerinas at hand. By this time Panov was out of the picture and she danced with Serge Vikulov with whom she was not well matched. Her nubile fulness was at variance with the aristocratic style of the company. Nevertheless, she went on to New York and enjoyed the distinction of dancing Nikiya to Vikulov's Solor in the first presentation of La Bayadere at the Metropolitan.

Fedicheva's life was turbulent; she married several times (the first to the ballet dancer and teacher Igor Uksusnikov), but while Rachinsky was in control she could not be displaced. Her career was carved out by him. As well a director of the Kirov, he was director of the Leningrad Television network and many other art institutions. However, through underground dealings, he was convicted of fraud and served a prison sentence.

Ever resourceful, Fedicheva married Martin Freedman, an American teacher of dance, and emigrated to the US in 1975.

With Freedman she ran a successful ballet school - the New Russian School in Sea Cliff, Long Island, and directed her students and professional guests in the Fedicheva Ballet Company of Long Island. They divorced in 1979, but she continued to stage works from the Russian classic repertory and choreograph new ballets both in the United States and abroad. Last year, she staged a production of Giselle for the Colorado Ballet.

As recently as six months ago she visited her old friend and colleague Valery Panov in Bonn, by now chief choreographer and artistic director of the Bonn Opera Ballet with a request to coach his company.

Kaleria Fedicheva was made a People's Artist of the Soviet Union in 1967.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory