January 10, 1924|
|Died||September 22, 1996
Born in Riga, Latvia, to a Russian father and a Polish mother, Ludmilla Alexandrovna Otsup was raised and trained in Berlin, where she studied with Alexandra Nikolaeva, a former ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, with Nikolaeva's daughter and son-in-law Xenia and Édouard Borovanky, and with Evgenia Eduardova. Her career was interrupted by the conflict of World War II, during which she was confined to a Nazi labor camp on the unfounded suspicion of being Jewish. She escaped during a bombing raid and, with the assistance of the Red Cross, made her way to Switzerland, where she was able to resume her ballet training and revive her professional career in Lausanne and Geneva. While resident in the Suisse romande, she married Russian artist Alexis Shiriaev, whose surname was spelled Chiriaeff, in the French style.
After immigrating with her family to Canada in 1952, Chiriaeff settled in Montreal, Quebec, opened a ballet school, and soon began to create dances for Société Radio-Canada, the French-language public television service. Because of the success of her television appearances, she founded Les Ballets Chiriaeff, a small troupe that grew in size and popularity and eventually evolved into Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, in 1957. Under her guidance, shared jointly with choreographer Fernand Nault, this company achieved international prominence in 1966–7, during Canada's Expo 67 World Festival and subsequent tours of the United States and western Europe. Chiriaeff retired as co-artistic director of the company in 1974 and devoted herself to leadership of the company's associated schools.
In 1969 Chiriaeff was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1984. In 1978 she was proclaimed a Grande Montréalaise by the City of Montreal, and in 1985 she was made a Grand Officier de l' Ordre National du Québec. She was also the recipient of the Governor General's Award for the Performing Arts, the Denise Pelletier Award for the Performing Arts, and honorary doctorates from McGill University, the Université de Montréal, and the Université du Québec.
- Claude Conyers, "Chiriaeff, Ludmilla," International Encyclopedia of Dance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), vol. 2, p. 150.
- Max Wyman, Dance Canada: An Illustrated History (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1989).
- Conyers, "Chiriaeff, Ludmilla" (1998), vol. 2, pp. 150–2.
- Jack Anderson, "Ludmilla Chiriaeff, 72, Founder of Ballet Company in Montreal," obituary, New York Times, 25 September 1996.
- Office of the Governor General of Canada. Order of Canada citation. Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 26 May 2010