Svetlana Beriosova

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Svetlana Beriosova at the press conference at Hilton Amsterdam in June 1964

Svetlana Nikolayevna Beriosova (Russian: Светла́на Никола́евна Берёзова; 24 September 1932 – 10 November 1998),[1] also spelled Beriozova or Beryozova, was a Lithuanian-British prima ballerina who danced with The Royal Ballet for more than 20 years.


Beriosova made her professional debut in 1947 with Nesta Toumine's Ottawa Ballet. In 1952, after appearing with several major companies, including the Grand Ballet de Monte Carlo and the Metropolitan Ballet, she joined the Sadler's Wells Ballet, where she became prima ballerina in 1955.

Notable among her leading roles there was Swanilda in Coppélia, which allowed her to showcase her rarely used comic talent. She was better known for her eloquent and elegant classical style, which was highlighted in the many leading roles she created, such as Princess Belle Rose in John Cranko's The Prince of the Pagodas (1957), the Fairy in Kenneth MacMillan's Le Baiser de la fée (The Fairy's Kiss, 1960), and Lady Elgar in Frederick Ashton's Enigma Variations (1968). She also danced such traditional classical roles as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, and the title role in Giselle.

As well as dancing the entire classical repertoire, Beriosova created the leading part in several modern ballets, notably the title role in Cranko's Antigone (1959). In one of her more unusual modern parts, the title role of Ashton's Persephone (1961), she recited André Gide's poetry in French in addition to dancing to the music of Igor Stravinsky.

Plagued by illness and injuries, Beriosova performed very little in the 1970s. She retired in 1975 but continued to coach young dancers. On her retirement from dancing, she became a popular teacher and dancers' coach, working in public onstage in Maina Gielgud's Steps, Notes and Squeaks in 1978 and 1980.

Personal life[edit]

Born in Kaunas, Lithuania, the daughter of Nicolas Beriosoff (or Nicolas Beriozoff) (1906–1996), a Lithuanian ballet master of ethnic Russian descent who immigrated to England. Beriosova came to the United States in 1940 , where she studied ballet. Her mother died in New York when she was 10 years old.

Beriosova's was married to psychoanalyst Masud Khan on January 23, 1959, and they divorced in 1974 after 15 years.[2][3] She was close friend to actress/singer Julie Andrews, and was the godmother to scenic designer/theatre director Tony Walton's daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton,[4] Nathalie Ghent, Harold Morris' daughter, Nadia Ghent, and to Dimitri Kullmann.[citation needed]

Beriosova died from cancer, aged 66, in Kensington, London in 1998. She was survived by a cousin.[2]


  1. ^ "Svetlana Beriosova". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Dunning, Jennifer (13 November 1998). "Svetlana Beriosova, Ballerina With Royal Ballet, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  3. ^ Hopkins, Linda (2018). False Self: The Life of Masud Khan. Routledge. p. 61. ISBN 9780429913570. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  4. ^ Hopkins, Linda (2018). False Self: The Life of Masud Khan. Routledge. p. 63. ISBN 9780429913570. Retrieved 4 April 2019.

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