Introduction to the Nuit Blanche celebrating Liubov Egorova
30 May 2010
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30th May 2010
"The subject, is Beauty and Love"
Those words, uttered by the Danish ballerina Lis Jeppesen concerning August Bournonville, define Liubov Egorova as well, the artist and the human being. Her Christian name, Liubov, means Love in the Russian language, and that is what her students all say of her: her attitude towards the music, work and other human beings was all of a piece, inundated with a goodness and wisdom that lent her an authority far beyond her rank as an aristocrat and a leading light in the Imperial Theatre. Let us hear Ethery Pagava, her pupil: "An artist may sometimes be accomplished in his work, but not in life. Madame Egorova was a human being as accomplished in life as in art. That is the hardest of all, and that is why our respect for her was so great."
A colleague of Mikhaïl Fokine at the Imperial Dancing School, where they both graduated in 1898, Egorova considered herself to be the disciple of Cecchetti, Johanssoni and Ekaterina Vazem.
The first decade of Egorova’s career at the Maryinskii Theatre was overshadowed by the spectacular technical accomplishment of Mathilde Kschessinskaya and Agrippina Vaganova. Only around 1909 did she find her own path. Never one to play to the gallery, although her technique was probably no lesser than the aforesaid illustrious ballerinas, Egorova disguised all effort, and wore the music like a glove.
As it happened, Egorova danced at a point in time when the Imperial Ballet had become stifled by convention and an unwillingness to encourage original choreography. A worldly-wise, politely-bored audience whiled away the hours by raising shrines to the ballerinas and their prowess.
Nevertheless Egorova’s interpretations rewarded the attentive observer. Thus Gennadi Smakov wrote, "the originality of her Odette lies in the truth of her emotional response to the music. The forcefulness behind her interpretation is all the more touching, if one consider the economy of means deployed. Her Odette, shivering, distant and veiled in sorrow, is conveyed by motionless features and silent gestures, as though she were under the sway of a spell, enveloped in mystery." According to Krassovskaya, these effects were achieved "with the strictest adherence to the principles of imperial classicism".
In 1917, Egorova left the Maryinskii Theatre to appear abroad in Diaghilev’s Ballets russes. Between 1923 and 1968, she taught at her own studio in Paris. Never did she give vent to the insults and withering remarks that were part and parcel of being a teacher in those days. From that studio stepped forth some of the greatest dancers, teachers and choreographers of the Twentieth Century.