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Obituary: Youly Algaroff

Youly Algaroff, ballet dancer: born Simferopol, Crimea 28 March 1918; died 6 August 1995.

Youly Algaroff was a Russian-French dancer of exceptional charm. Despite a mixed training he possessed a singular purity of style. His finely tempered body was an instrument of finesse aided by a feline grace that was inborn; he was a natural danseur noble.

Despite his God-given attributes he did not have an easy start to his career, and he was very much an itinerant dancer, searching for openings that would foster his talent. As a youth he studied ballet with Eugenia Eduardova in Berlin and later, in Paris, with Boris Kniaseff and other Russians, including Lubov Egorova, who secured for him his first engagement with the Ballet de la Jeunesse in Lyons in 1937.

For a short time he danced with Serge Lifar's Nouveaux Ballets de Monte Carlo, then returned to Paris in 1945 to join Roland Petit's exciting young company, Les Ballets des Champs-Elysees, with whom he appeared on tour in London. The Petit company, with Diaghilev's lieutenant Boris Kochno as librettist and artistic adviser, gave seasons at the Adelphi and Princess theatres, in London, in the years following the Second World War, bringing a breath of cosmopolitan freshness.

Algaroff danced a number of leading roles in Petit's ballets, including Les Forains (1945), and in ballets such as Jeu de Cartes (1945), by Janine Charrat. His lyrical style blended well with the suave porcelain beauty of Irene Skorik whom he frequently partnered.

He left the Champs-Elysees ballet to dance with Lifar's Stars of the Paris Opera company, returning to them in 1948 to dance with Skorik a ballet by Leonide Massine, Le Peintre et son Modele (music Georges Auric), and other principal roles in La Fiancee du Diable and La Foret.

For a time Algaroff chose to freelance as a premier danseur; because of his exceptional talent he was in competition with some big names in French ballet but eventually he returned to the fold of Serge Lifar when the latter was reinstated in 1947 at the Paris Opera as artistic director and principal choreographer. Since Lifar was now banned from dancing as a punishment for his questionable wartime activities the opportunities for male dancers became more open and Algaroff was elevated in 1952 to the rank of danseur etoile.

He took the role of Prince Ivan and Nina Vyrobova the title role in a new version of Stravinsky's Firebird mounted by Lifar in 1954 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Diaghilev. It appears that Algaroff was rarely given first nights and his photograph is seldom found in programmes or publicity. In spite of this he was frequently chosen by visiting choreographers to create new roles, one of which was in Harald Lander's ballet Printemps a Vienne (1954). In 1957 he danced with Christiane Vaussard in Massine's creation of Symphonie Fantastique.

Algaroff was sought after by ballerinas because of his handsome good looks and his sensitivity of partnering. During his time at the Opera he danced Albrecht to France's most revered Giselle, Yvette Chauvire. Probably his greatest triumph was to tour the Soviet Union, the land of his birth, in 1960 with the Paris Opera Ballet.

He retired from dancing at the age of 51, devoting his time to teaching and eventually becoming an impresario. He toured ballet troupes in Europe and South America until ill-health forced him to abandon his activities.