The Baby Ballerinas referred to Irina Baronova, Tamara Toumanova, and Tatiana Riabouchinska, three young principal dancers of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in the 1930s. Their extreme youth and technical perfection won them fame around the world. In 1932, during their first season in London with the Ballet Russe, Baronova and Toumanova were each 12, and Riabouchinska was 14; English critic Arnold Askell coined the term “Baby Ballerinas.”
Children of the Russian exile community in Paris after the Revolution of 1917, they were discovered by George Balanchine in the studios of former Imperial ballerinas Olga Preobrajenskaya and Mathilde Kschessinskaya. With all three girls having some prior performing experience, Balanchine chose them to star in a new company, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. It succeeded the Ballets Russes after the death of Sergei Diaghilev in 1929; Balanchine was to be its chief choreographer.