Elizaveta Gerdt

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Elizaveta Gerdt in the Bolshoi ballet school, 1960s

Elizaveta Pavlovna Gerdt (Russian: Елизавета Павловна Гердт; 29 January [O.S. 17 January] 1891 – 6 November 1975) was a Russian dancer and teacher whose career links the Russian imperial and Soviet schools of classical dance.

A daughter of celebrated dancer Paul Gerdt, she studied under Michel Fokine at the Imperial Ballet School, where her chief partner was Vaslav Nijinsky. She married another popular danseur, Samuil Adrianov (1884-1917; the first husband), who danced with Pierina Legnani and Mathilde Kschessinska, two ballerinas she sought to emulate.

After the Russian Revolution Elizaveta Gerdt and Olga Spesivtseva were the only world-class dancers who chose to remain in Russia, while others emigrated to the West. Quite unexpectedly, in 1928, she resolved to abandon the stage and devote herself to teaching in Moscow. She coached innumerable prima ballerinas of the Bolshoi Ballet, including Alla Shelest, Sulamith Messerer, Maya Plisetskaya, Ekaterina Maksimova, and Raisa Struchkova.

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