7 Famous Russian Ballet Dancers and Their Achievements

Many wonderful things come from the country of Russia. The culture found there is interesting and steeped in a wealth of history. However, one thing that Russia tends to beat the rest of the world in is the art of dance. More specifically, Russia is one of the top contributors to ballet.

These contributions would most certainly not be possible without the great people behind them. As such, we will be celebrating seven famous Russian ballet dancers who have mastered the art of dance.

1. Rudolf Nureyev

Regarded by some as one of the most famous Russian ballet dancers of his generation, Rudolf Nureyev is a name to know in ballet. Born in 1938, Nureyev began his career with the Mariinsky Ballet found in St. Petersburg. He soon became a sensation within the Soviet Union.

However, he would defect from the Soviet Union in 1961. This was significant, as he was the first Soviet artist to defect during the Cold War. This caused international eyes to pay him attention, and effectively made him an even bigger sensation.

Nureyev went on to dance for The Royal Ballet of London from 1983 to 1989, and even served as the director of the Paris Opera Ballet.


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2. Mikhail Baryshnikov

Another one of the most famous Russian ballet dancers, Mikhail Baryshnikov garnered acclaim in his career as a dancer, choreographer, and dancer. His career kicked off to a promising start in the Leningrad-based Kirov Ballet. Baryshnikov made quite the name for himself as he exhibited talent for dance.

Naturally, he defected to Canada in 1974, as he would have far more opportunities to choose from in the west. This allowed him to grow as an artist and gain more acclaim. He went on to dance with the American Ballet Theatre, and soon enough became the artistic director.


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3. Anna Pavlova

Born in 1881, Anna Pavlova was destined to be a brilliant ballet dancer who shared her talent with the world. She was a prima ballerine of the late 19th and 20th centuries, as well as a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet. She also performed for the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev.

Although, Pavlova is more than likely more recognized for The Dying Swan, a role of which she created. She was also the first ballerina to tour internationally, as she danced in South America, India, and Australia.


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4. Vaslav Nijinsky

Born in Kiev, Nijinsky was introduced to dance by his parents at an early age. His mother and father were senior dancers with the traveling Setov opera company, meaning he spent his childhood touring with a dance company. This is more than likely where his love and passion for the art originated, and probably offered him a golden opportunity to learn everything he needed to know about the secrets of the talent.

It apparently had a real impact on Nijinsky, as he went on to become a ballet dancer and choreographer. However, he was not your run of the mill artist, as he is often referred to as the greatest dancer of the 20th century.


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5. Galina Ulanova

A Russian ballet dancer, Galina Ulanova is often called one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century. Ulanova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she studied under Agrippina Vaganova and her own mother as a child. This set the young dancer up for a very prestigious career in dance.

By 1928, Ulanova had joined the well respected Mariinsky Theatre, where she drew acclaim from an adoring press. This kicked off a career that led to the dancer receiving the Hero of Socialist Labour award not once, but twice. Ulanova was one of the few dancers to ever receive this award.


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6. Sergei Diaghilev

Founder of the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev held many titles during his life. Art critic, patron, ballet impresario, and legend all apply to the artist. While he was technically not a ballet dancer, he had such an effect on the art and worked so closely with other artists that he may as well have been one.

The Ballets Russes, the famous dance company that he created, would be the starting point for many famous Russian ballet dancers and choreographers. Many of the greatest dance artists of Russia were associated with the Ballets Russes, in fact.


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7. Maya Plisetskaya

Born in 1925, Maya Plisetskaya would grow up to be a soviet ballet dancer, choreographer, director, and actress. Her life of dance began by studying at the Bolshoi Ballet School at the age of nine. Following her graduation at the age of eighteen, Plisetskaya joined the Bolshoi Theatre and quickly rose the ranks of the company. She was clearly very talented, and eventually worked her way to the title of prima ballerina assoluta of the famed Bolshoi Theatre.

The hardworking ballet dancer put in many hours of barre training, which turned into a long career dedicated to the art and to leaving her mark on Russian ballet. There’s little doubt that she inspired many aspiring artists over the years and helped shape the culture into what it has become today.


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