Marina Semyonova

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Marina Semyonova
Born(1908-06-12)12 June 1908
Died9 June 2010(2010-06-09) (aged 101)
Occupation(s)Prima ballerina assoluta, Teacher
Employer(s)Mariinsky Theatre, Bolshoi Theatre
AwardsPeople's Artist of the USSR

Marina Timofeyevna Semyonova (Russian: Марина Тимофеевна Семёнова, 12 June [O.S. 30 May] 1908 – 9 June 2010) was the first Soviet-trained prima ballerina. She was born in Saint-Petersburg. She was named a People's Artist of the USSR in 1975.

Early life[edit]

The first great dancer formed by Agrippina Vaganova, she graduated from the Vaganova School in 1925, which "is registered in the annals of Soviet ballet as the year of the unprecedented triumph of Marina Semyonova".[1]

She worked in the Kirov Ballet until 1930 when Joseph Stalin had her and her husband Viktor Semyonov (they were namesakes) transferred to the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

There she married Lev Karakhan (the civil marriage), an Old Bolshevik and Deputy Foreign Minister, best known as an advisor to Sun Yat-sen. He was purged in 1937.


The Soviet choreographer Maya Plisetskaya wrote of her that "what she demonstrated in her time was unusual, brand new, breathtaking. Now it is widely believed it has always been that way."[2] The writer Stefan Zweig wrote of her dancing that "when she steps onto the stage with her nature-given gait, which her training only polished, and suddenly soars up in a wild leap, the impression is that of a storm suddenly splitting the quiet of a humdrum existence."[2]

Semyonova was guest with the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1935 where she danced Giselle with Serge Lifar.[3]

She received the Stalin Prize for 1941 and retired in 1952. After that, she became one of the most important teachers and répétiteurs of the Bolshoi Theatre. Natalia Bessmertnova, Marina Kondratieva, Nadezhda Pavlova, Nina Sorokina, Ludmila Semenyaka, Nina Timofeyeva and Nina Ananiashvili were among her adepts.

Semyonova retired from her coaching duties at the age of 96. She is known for her friendship with young danseur Nikolay Tsiskaridze, who interviewed her on several occasions. She also had a daughter by elocutionist Vsevolod Aksyonov. In 2003, she won the Prix Benois de la Danse for lifetime achievement. In 2008, the Bolshoi Theatre celebrated Semyonova's centenary. Semyonova died on 9 June 2010 in her home in Moscow, three days before her 102nd birthday.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Agrippina Vaganova. Basic Principles of Classical Ballet. Courier Dover Publications, 1969. ISBN 0-486-22036-2. Page IX.
  2. ^ a b Bruce Weber (June 10, 2010). "Marina Semyonova, Star of Bolshoi Ballet, Dies at 102". The New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2010.
  3. ^ Her foreign tour was opposed vehemently by Klim Voroshilov, who wrote to Stalin: "At one time I was certain that Chaliapine would return. I even bet a bottle of cognac with the late Mikhail Frunze. And I lost. It is quite conceivable that Semyonova will not return". To this Lazar Kaganovich responded: "I think she will not escape. She is a very proper person and it makes little sense for her to escape. She is not tempted by money, the high life, etc". — quoted in Miklos Kun. Stalin: An Unknown Portrait. Central European University Press, 2003. ISBN 963-9241-19-9. Page 225.

Further reading[edit]

  • M.T. Semyonova. Moscow, 1953.
  • S. Ivanova. Marina Semyonova. Moscow, 1965.

External links[edit]