Irina Baronova, c. 1937
March 13, 1919|
|Died||June 28, 2008
Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
|Parents||Mikhail Baronov, Lidia Vishniakova|
Irina Mikhailovna Baronova FRAD (Russian: Ирина Михайловна Баронова) (March 13, 1919 – June 28, 2008) was a Russian prima ballerina who was one of the Baby Ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, discovered by George Balanchine in Paris in the 1930s. She created roles in Léonide Massine's Le Beau Danube (1924), Jeux d'enfants (1932), and Les Présages (1933); and in Bronislava Nijinska's Les Cent Baisers (1935).
Baronova was born in Saint Petersburg (then known as Petrograd) in 1919, the daughter of a lieutenant in the Imperial Navy, Mikhail Baronov, and his wife Lidia (née Vishniakova). When she was less than two years old, her family moved to Romania. Ballet lessons with a local teacher convinced Baronova's mother that her daughter was exceptionally talented, so the family moved to Paris in 1928 to provide Irina with professional training, where she was taught by Olga Preobrajenska. She also studied with fellow ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska. Baronova made her debut aged 11 at the Paris Opera in 1930.
The crucial point in Baronova's career came in 1931, when she was 12 years old. She, along with two other girls, Tamara Toumanova, 12, and Tatiana Riabouchinska, 14, were hired by George Balanchine to become ballerinas in the newly formed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Their extreme youth and technical perfection won them fame around the world and the writer Arnold Haskell dubbed the trio of Baronova, Toumanova and Riabouchinska the "Baby Ballerinas".
Baronova became a prima ballerina aged 14, and her first principal role was Odette in Swan Lake, partnered by Anton Dolin. At age 17 she eloped with an older Russian, German (Jerry or Gerry) Sevastianov. They had a church wedding in Sydney, Australia, two years later, when she was on tour. She joined the Ballet Theatre in the USA, under the patronage of Sol Hurok. Her marriage to Sevastianov ended in divorce, and in Britain in 1946 she met the agent Cecil Tennant, who asked her to marry him if she would give up ballet. Aged only 27, she agreed, and retired.
Baronova and Tennant had three children, Victoria, Irina and Robert. Through Victoria, she became the mother-in-law of Steve Martin. In 1967, Cecil Tennant was killed in a car accident, and Baronova moved to Switzerland. Later, she resumed her relationship with her first husband, Jerry Sevastianov, who died in 1974. She returned to teaching master classes in the United States and United Kingdom in 1976. Margot Fonteyn asked her to conduct a training course for teachers. In 1986 she staged Fokine's Les Sylphides for The Australian Ballet. In 1992 she returned to Russia to help the Mariinsky Theatre with an archival project. In 1996 she received a Vaslav Nijinsky Medal from Poland and an honorary doctorate from the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Baronova's daughter Irina moved to Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, and, after visiting her in 2000, Baronova decided to settle there as well. Baronova appeared in the 2005 documentary Ballets Russes. In the same year she published her autobiography, Irina: Ballet, Life and Love, which she wrote in longhand despite having lost much of her sight.
Only five weeks before her death, she spoke at a symposium in Adelaide, South Australia, on the Ballets Russes tours of Australia. She died in Byron Bay on June 28, 2008, aged 89.
- Irina: Ballet, Life and Love Autobiography, 2005, Penguin/Viking, ISBN 978-0-670-02848-1, University Press of Florida ISBN 978-0-8130-3026-5
- Lister, Raymond (1983) There was a star danced... Linton, Cambridge (A limited edition art work on Baronova)
- Kisselgoff, Anna (2 July 2008). "Irina Baronova, Ballet Star, Dies at 89". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 July 2008. "Irina Baronova, an international ballet star who was one of three celebrated prodigies known as the "baby ballerinas" after George Balanchine discovered them in Paris in the 1930s, died on Saturday at her home in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia. She was 89."
- "Irina Baronova," entry in International Encyclopedia of Dance (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), volume 1, p. 367.
- "Fellowship of the Royal Academy of Dance". Retrieved 6 July 2008.
- "Royal Academy of Dance – Contacts" (PDF). Dance Gazette, Issue 1/2007. Royal Academy of Dance. February 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2008.
- "The Australian Ballet School Structure". The Australian Ballet School. Retrieved 6 July 2008.[dead link]
- "Irina Baronova: ballerina and member of Ballets Russes". The Times (London). 26 July 2008. Retrieved 27 July 2008. (subscription required)
- "Raymond Lister" obituary, The Daily Telegraph (30 November 2001)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Irina Baronova.|
- Irina Baronova at the Internet Movie Database
- Obituary, The Daily Telegraph (1 July 2008)
- Obituary at NEWSru (3 July 2008) (Russian)
- Australia Dancing – The Prodigal Son
- Australia Dancing – Baronova, Irina (1919–2008)
- Irina Baronova Gallery at the National Library of Australia