"Death of the Rose." Danced by Maya Plisetskaya and Alexander Godunov


This image is from the series “Variations on the Theme ‘Death of the Rose’.” It was taken by Leonid Zhdanov (1927−2010) in 1977 at the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow. For the first time, after decades of prohibition, the leading ballet troupe of the Soviet Union invited a foreign choreographer—Roland Petit (1924−2011) from France. An admirer of Maya Plisetskaya (born 1925), the prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater, Petit brought to the Moscow stage for her a fragment from his ballet La Rose Malade set to the music of Mahler. Petit turned the duet of the two heroes, Rose and Youth, into an independent work, Death of the Rose. The role of Youth was performed by the Bolshoi soloist Alexander Godunov (1949−95). He graduated from the Ballet School in Riga (Latvia), where he studied in the same class as Mikhail Baryshnikov. Godunov was gifted by nature and had a rare combination of characteristics for ballet: he was tall, well built, a high jumper, graceful in movements, and artistic. In 1967 he was invited to join the Moscow troupe Young Ballet, directed by Igorʹ Moiseev. He became a soloist of the Bolshoi Theater in 1971. In 1973 he received a prize and gold medal at the third International Ballet Competition in Moscow. He performed principal roles in ballets of both classical and contemporary repertoire. In 1979, during a Bolshoi Theater tour in the United States, he requested political asylum. In the years 1980−82 he was the soloist for the American Ballet Theater but soon left because of disagreements with the head of the company and his former classmate Mikhail Baryshnikov. He continued to dance in various American troupes, taught, and acted in Hollywood films. Zhdanov, a Bolshoi dancer and then a professor of choreography for 50 years, was also a professional ballet photographer for most of his career. His pictures are spontaneous and evocatively capture the movements, moods, and emotions of the dancers. The Reborn Art Foundation in Moscow holds this image and the rest of the Zhdanov archive.

Last updated: February 3, 2015