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Natalia Makarova

Author of A Dance Autobiography

Includes the names: Nataliav (1940-) Makarova

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(by Dane Youssef) Named "prima ballerina absoluta," as well as "first lady of ballet," heavily praised for her legendary superhuman work in ballet. She, along with Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Nijinsky and Malakov remain as evidence that he finest ballet dancer of any generation will always be a Russian. With her shapely face, big expressive eyes, large cheekbones and perfect svelte, yet rubber-like flexible body and long, willowy limbs, Makarova has emerged as one one the greatest ever to put on a pair of tights and toe shoes. Born in the city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1940, Natalia Makarova was not really born into the theatre or dance. Not many of her family was based into what became her devotion. Most of those in dance get involved are continuing in the family tradition. Now Makarova, she came from a family of scientists. Her introduction to the world of dance was one of pure destiny. She showed up to the ballet school entirely by sheer dumb luck, and in the same vein, was admitted immediately. She started up at the age of twelve and completed the nine-year course in only six. Truly a natural talent blessed by God. Makarova studied at the Choreographic School in Leningrad. Although she was older than many of the other girls, she quickly made up for lost time, excelling in class and completing the entire course in six years instead of the standard nine. Always showing more skill and talent than the ballet called for. She graduated in 1959 and joined the famed Kirov Ballet. Makarova was never allowed any modern or large roles during her run. But during her stint, she was given solo roles, but moved up to principal very quickly. Although she was difficult, she excelled in role after role, even her early ones. She always seemed to find her own unique voice, rather than just trying to imitate the other dancers or doing or following the instructor's orders. During her stint which spanned from 1959-to-1970, she performed the classic ballerina repertoire such as "Swan Lake," "Sleeping Beauty" and "Giselle," which has said to be her best. Many have said that there has not been any ballerina finer in the title role. She is somehow always a neighborly tomboy and a petite, dainty and dignified lady all at once. Though in 1961, her breakthrough as a true star came when the Soviet Union wanted to show just how great the dancers in their country truly were, in reaction to the defected Rudolf Nureyev, who made an enormous splash when he left his homeland. Although she was praised to high-heaven throughout her career and things were really taken off now, like many others before her, the Russian repertoire of ballet was limiting, politics were forced and freedom and individuality were non-existent. When the troupe was London, Makarova defected and remained in seclusion until the plane took off. She eventually came out of hiding and danced a filmed version of "The Dying Swan" with Nureyev for the BBC. After this, she was invited to perform with the American Ballet Theatre right away. In 1982, she was all-set to appear on the '30's Broadway musical "On Your Toes" by George Balanchine in the role of the Russian temptress, Vera. Makarova was hit by a fallen stage prop during a live performance in Washington, DC. This would normally spell disaster and the end, but Makarova's life was about doing the impossible and refused to even be set back. Despite her hospitalization for injuries to her shoulder and back, she recuperated and returned to the show. Although some found "On Your Toes" to be now almost ludicrously out-dated and campy, the stars were acclaimed to high-heaven, especially Makarova who even taking home the Tony Award and the Lawrence Oliver Award for her performance. In Russia, her name was banned for the longest time. After she danced with Anthony Dowell of the Royal Ballet, she was smitten with his looks, charm, strength and grace onstage. She wished to get involved with him romantically, but because of Dowell's sexuality, he could not return her feelings. Makarova attempted to lean and cry on the shoulder of old romantic flame and dance partner, a man named Mikhail Baryshnikov. She attempted to re-connect with him, but Baryshnikov was already connected to fellow ABT dancer Gelsey Kirkland. Makarova, as endlessly gifted in ballet as she is, did not limit herself to the ballet stage. Makarova has dabbled in other crafts--theatre acting, painting, even writing and appearing in her own 1994 BBC special, "Great Railway Journey-St. Peterberg to Tashkent." When she goes, she will know that she has left something behind. A legacy forever cemented in stone. (by Dane Youssef)
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