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Sonia Arova was born as Sonia Errio on May 19, 1927 in Sofia, Bulgaria. She grew up in Sofia, she went to a ballet school, where she showed potential that the teachers she had advised her mother to take her to further her training. She began her training in Paris. Her piano teacher advised her and her family to flee Paris. Disguised as her piano teacher's son, she was smuggled out of the country on a fishing boat. She never saw her father again. She was reunited with her mother and sister eight years later. In England, she enrolled in dance school and eventually joined the International Ballet in 1942.
She worked as a principal ballerina in the Original Ballets Russes, the London Festival Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the National Ballet of Washington, D.C., and the American Ballet Theatre. She danced with Rudolph Nureyev in their American debut. She was a great success, with kings and queens presenting her presents in appreciation of her work. She became Artistic Director of the National Ballet of Norway in 1961.
In 1971, she co-directed the San Diego Ballet with her husband Thor Sutowski. The couple accepted teaching posts at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in 1976. During their stay, she was artistic director of the Alabama Ballet. In 1996, the pair returned to San Diego, California, where her daughter, Ariane, lived. In a ceremony at the United Nations, she was made a Dame by King Olaf V of Norway, becoming the second woman so distinguished.
She died from pancreatic cancer in 2001, aged seventy-four.
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