Monday, March 24, 2014

Anna Pavlova – Innovator of Modern Point Shoe

Anna Pavlova was a Russian prima ballerina of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. She was a principal artist of the Imperial Russian Ballet and the Ballets Russes of Sergei Diaghilev. Pavlova is most recognized for the creation of the role The Dying Swan and, with her own company, became the first ballerina to tour ballet around the world.

Anna Pavlova was born on January 31, 1881 in Ligovo, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Pavlova's passion for the art of ballet was ignited when her mother took her to a performance of Marius Petipa's original production of The Sleeping Beauty at the Imperial Maryinsky Theater. She was not accepted to ballet school until the age of 10 because she was tall and “sickly” looking. She struggled to learn the art of ballet because she had severely arched feet, thin ankles and long, thin legs. She graduated in 1899 at age 18 and became part of the Imperial Ballet. Her dancing paid little heed to academic rules: she frequently performed with bent knees, bad turnout, misplaced port de bras and incorrectly placed tours. Critics compared her to the romantic ballerinas of old time.

Her ankles were weaker than most ballerinas and her feet were extremely rigid, so she strengthened her pointe shoe by adding a piece of hard wood on the soles for support and curving the box of the shoe. At the time, many considered this "cheating", for a ballerina of the era was taught that she, not her shoes, must hold her weight en pointe. In Pavlova's case this was extremely difficult, as the shape of her feet required her to balance her weight on her little toes. Her solution became, over time, the precursor of the modern pointe shoe, as pointe work became less painful and easier for curved feet. With these newly revised pointe shoes, Pavlova created her most famous role as the Dying Swan. Pavlova passed away on January 23, 1931 after refusing to have an operation for pneumonia when the doctors told her she would never dance again.

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