Anna Pavlova: Biography, Height, Accomplishments & More

Anna Pavlova is one of the greatest ballerinas to ever grace the stage. 

She was a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and is renowned for her iconic choreography of The Dying Swan, which continues to be performed today by leading dancers worldwide. 

Being the first ballerina to have international tours bringing ballet to regions where the dance was unknown, she became a source of inspiration for a new wave of dancers, choreographers, and ballet fans. 

This article will discover how she lived such a remarkable life.  

Who Is Anna Pavlova?

Anna Pavlova (1881 – 1931) was one of the most renowned ballerinas ever. 

Her passion for dance propelled her to perform in some of the most far-reaching and exotic locations: Australia to India, South America to the United States. 

Often her audiences were unfamiliar with the art form she embodied. Yet she inspired them and many greats who followed in her footsteps, such as Alicia Markova and Frederick Ashton, who first saw her perform in Peru. 

She remains a beacon of inspiration for future generations of dancers.

Anna Pavlova was a genius in her field and is widely renowned for revolutionizing modern ballet. 

She created the modern pointe shoe for female dancers, paving the way for more artistic freedom in choreography. Her career was incredibly successful, despite having come from humble beginnings. 

Anna Pavlova’s Family

Anna Pavlova was born on February 12th, 1881 – on a winter’s day in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

Her mother, Lyubov Feodorovna, was a washerwoman. Her stepfather, Matvey Pavlov, was a reservist soldier in the Russian army. 

Anna believed her father was a man named Pavel, who was her mother’s ex-husband. Even so, it remains unclear whether this is accurate. 

According to some sources, her biological father was Lazar Poliakoff, with whom Lyubov had an affair. Historians and biographers are still attempting to unravel the mystery surrounding Anna Pavlova’s parentage.

Anna Pavlova was married to her manager and companion Victor Dandré in 1914. However, their relationship remained unknown until 1932 when Dand released his biography of the dancer, Anna Pavlova: In Art & Life. 

The couple had first met as early as 1904 or 1900. Upon Victor’s death in 1944, his remains were cremated and placed beneath those of Anna at the Golders Green Crematorium.

Throughout her lifetime, Anna had a deep affinity for animals – evidenced by many photographic portraits which showed her with pets such as cats, dogs, and birds, including her beloved Jack, the swan. 

Anna Pavlova’s Body Measurement

Anna Pavlova’s height is 5 feet 0 inches, which is not ideal for classical ballet dancers. 

Despite the negative comments and critiques she received about her stature, Anna used this to create a unique style of ballet that celebrated her body type. 

She altered her pointe shoes to fit the shape of her foot, reinforcing them with leather stitching so she could stay on her toes longer. 

By making these adjustments, Anna could excel in her craft and show off a grace no one else had ever seen. 

She determined to use the criticism about her physical appearance as an opportunity for growth and create a beautiful form of ballet that worked for her body. 

She showed us that even imperfections can be transformed into something extraordinary. 

Check more: How Tall Are Ballerinas? Ideal Ballerina Height

Anna Pavlova’s Early Life and Education

At 9, she was exposed to the magic of ballet when her mother took her to a performance of Sleeping Beauty. 

This experience spurred her to audition for the prestigious Imperial Ballet School in the following years. 

At 10, she was accepted and made her stage debut in Petipa’s Un conte de fées (A Fairy Tale). This performance would serve as a launching pad for the rest of Pavlova’s celebrated career in ballet.

Anna Pavlova’s journey to becoming a world-renowned ballerina was one of dedication and hard work. 

She had thin ankles, long limbs, and severely arched feet, in stark contrast to the idealized smaller, more compact body type preferred by the classical ballet community at the time. 

Despite her body limitations, she refused to give up. 

She took extra lessons from renowned teachers such as Christian Johansson, Pavel Gerdt, and especially Enrico Cecchetti, who still used the Cecchetti method. 

After a long training, she was able to hone her craft and succeed despite her perceived shortcomings. 

At 18, Anna Pavlova graduated from the Imperial Ballet School and was chosen to join the Imperial Ballet as a coryphée. 

Her debut performance at the Mariinsky Theatre in Pavel Gerdt’s Les Dryades prétendues received great praise from critics, particularly renowned historian Nikolai Bezobrazov.

Check more: Alina Cojocaru: Biography, Height, Net Worth & More

Anna Pavlova’s Dancing Achievements

Anna Pavlova’s illustrious career took off in 1905 when she danced the lead solo in Michael Fokine’s The Dying Swan, with music composed by Camille Saint-Saëns. 

This acclaimed performance skyrocketed her to fame and critical acclaim. 

Her expressive movements and emotive facial expressions captured the audience’s attention as she conveyed the play’s powerful message of the fragility and value of life. The Dying Swan remained Pavlova’s signature role.

Anna’s ascension to the top of the ballet world was meteoric. 

Just seven years after beginning her career, she had already mastered one of the most challenging pieces ever choreographed – Giselle – and was promoted to prima ballerina. 

Fascinated by the opportunity to perform abroad, she embarked on two tours in 1907 and 1908, which took her to various European capitals such as Berlin, Copenhagen, and Prague. 

Her graceful yet powerful performance earned her rave reviews from audiences across Europe.

Anna Pavlova’s career as a dancer was marked with tremendous success. 

It was no wonder she got an invitation to join Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe on its historic tour during the opening season in Paris in 1909. 

She also danced in featured roles with renowned dancers like Laurent Novikoff, Thadee Slavinsky, Olga Spessivtzeva, Anatole Vilz, and Alexander Volinine. 

The troupe toured widely in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This tour was instrumental in spreading Russian ballet influence worldwide, particularly in Australia.

In 1911, Anna Pavlova embarked on a remarkable journey defining her career trajectory. She founded her ballet company to manage her performances, from choreography to costume design. 

Victor Dandré, her husband, took care of organizing tours and managing the day-to-day operations. 

Over two decades, Anna and her company toured extensively worldwide and captivated audiences with their charming performances. 

She wrote an inspiring story, growing from an unknown dancer at the Mariinsky Theatre to a renowned international star. 

Anna Pavlova’s Awards

In 1913, she was honored with the Honored Artist Imperial Theaters and a gold medal to acknowledge her vast contributions to this field. 

Not only did she stand out amongst her contemporaries, but she also left a legacy unlike any other. Her name lives on in the awards, documentaries, and ballets dedicated to her. 

Many have described Anna as Divine and Delightful while referring to her as the White Swan and even the Swan Fairy due to her sheer beauty. 

To honor the legend’s 100th birthday, renowned Swiss artist Igor Carl Fabergé licensed a collection of crystal wine glasses featuring her profile. 

Moreover, a 1983 film titled Anna Pavlova captured her life story. The dish Pavlova, originating from her tour of New Zealand and Australia, is named in her honor. 

Anna Pavlova’s Death

How did Anna Pavlova die? 

On her journey from Paris to The Hague, her health worsened. Then she was forced to call for medical attention. 

Her personal physician diagnosed the ballerina with pneumonia and recommended an immediate operation that would have left her unable to dance. 

But, staying true to her passion and determination, she refused the procedure. Her proclaims at that time became worldwide famous, “If I can’t dance, I’d rather be dead.”

She spent her final hours in The Hague, Netherlands. She died on January 23rd, 1931, and rested at Golders Green Cemetery in London, close to her home with her husband, Victor Dandré.

Anna Pavlova died at 51 from pleurisy and influenza. Her husband recorded her cause of death as such in her obituary. 

Anna Pavlova’s last words were “Get my swan costume ready” – a reference to her most iconic performance piece.

The passing of Anna Pavlova left the ballet world in shock and grief. 

At the time, she was at the peak of her fame due to her skillful and graceful ballet performances, making her among the most beloved dancers ever. 

On the day she was due to have performed, a single spotlight shined on an empty stage in her honor, as per tradition. This tribute serves to remind us of her incredible talent and legacy forever.

Final Words 

Anna Pavlova was a remarkable and groundbreaking ballet dancer whose influence over the field remains today. 

Starting her career at the Imperial Ballet School, she quickly rose to fame for her flawless technique and poetic style of dancing. Her performances were captivating and awe-inspiring. 

Her legacy is remembered and celebrated through the many schools, companies, and societies set up in her name, inspiring the successions of dancers to come.

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