She was born in Moscow in 1941 and trained at the Bolshoi Moscow Ballet School from 1953 to 1961. Among her teachers were Maria Kozhukhova and Sofia Golovkina, and later Marina Semyonova. She graduated in 1961 as the first student in the school's history receiving A+ in the final examinations. In 1963 she joined the Bolshoi Ballet and was its prima ballerina for three decades. She was married to Yuri Grigorovich, former Director and Chief choreographer of the Bolshoi. When Yury Grigorovich was forced to leave the Bolshoi in 1995, she took part in a historic strike which led to cancellations of scheduled performances. Bessmertnova died in Moscow on 19 February 2008, aged 66, from cancer.