Anna Pavlova was born to working-class, unwed parents in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1891, she was admitted to the Imperial Ballet School and made her stage debut where she trained with great determination to overcome her physical limitations, such as weak ankles, and improve her technique; among her teachers was the legendary Enrico Cecchetti. She graduated in 1899 and was chosen to enter the Imperial Ballet. She made her official début at the Mariinsky Theatre to critical acclaim and rose quickly through the ranks of the company with the support of the great maestro Marius Petipa. She was named prima ballerina in 1906 and had many passionate admirers. She made innovative improvements to the pointe shoes used by modern ballerinas, in order to further support her feet and ankles. She danced with the Ballets Russes and then founded her own company and went on tour, giving more than 4,000 performances around the world. Her most celebrated role was The Dying Swan, choreographed for her by Michel Fokine. Pavlova's fame was such that her name is still practically synonymous with ballet. She died suddenly of an infectious disease at age 49.