January 01, 2005

Galina Ulanova

Perhaps it was inevitable that Galina Ulanova would dance. After all, it was the family business. Her father, Sergei Ulanov, was director of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, and took her to her first performance: Sleeping Beauty. When the Lilac Fairy appeared, Galina cried out, “That’s mama, my mama!” Her mother, Maria Romanova, was a dancer and teacher at the Imperial School of the Mariinsky Ballet (later, during the Soviet period, the Kirov State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet).

Yet, as a young girl, Ulanova did not enjoy dancing. It was a struggle, especially after the Bolsheviks came to power. Ulanova’s parents had to find extra work. Besides performing at the Mariinsky, they also gave performances three times a day in cinemas, while films were being changed and rewound.

Nonetheless, Galina was sent to the Petrograd School of Choreography as a boarding student. Ulanova constantly asked her mother, who was her first dance teacher, to let her come home. But soon she reconciled herself to her fate and made new friends. She was also making incredible progress in dance and was invited to the Academy Opera to perform in Riccardo Drigo’s Caprices of a Butterfly. It was her debut onstage.

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