The Goddess of Dance. Galina Ulanova


Leonid Zhdanov (1927–2010) took this photograph of Galina Ulanova (1910–98) in the ballet Les Sylphides at the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, in 1961. Ulanova was born in Saint Petersburg. In 1928 she graduated from the class of Agrippina Vaganova (1879–1951) at the Leningrad Choreographic School. Ulanova exuded extraordinary magnetism. Forgoing fashionable virtuosity, her dancing was characterized by nuances and half tones. Ulanova was not only a great dancer; she was also a great tragic actress, perhaps the most significant in the history of ballet. Her dance career began in 1928 at the Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater (before 1919 and from 1991, the Mariinsky Theater). A year later she made her debut as Odette–Odile in Swan Lake. She also enjoyed success in The Nutcracker, Giselle, The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, and Les Sylphides. Her performance as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet choreographed by Leonid Lavrovsky was triumphant. During 1944–60 Ulanova was a ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater. Both Moscow and Leningrad audiences went to performances specifically to see her dance. Her fans included well-known writers, directors, composers, and artists. In 1956 the Bolshoi Theater undertook a legendary tour in London with Ulanova’s performances at its core. Ulanova's name became a new symbol in the world of ballet. She was the only dancer to whom monuments, in Saint Petersburg and Stockholm, were dedicated during her lifetime. 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 capture on film the movements, moods, and emotions of the unposed dancers. The Reborn Art Foundation in Moscow holds this image and the rest of the Zhdanov archive.

Last updated: February 3, 2015