Alla Osipenko: Beauty and Subversion in Soviet Ballet

ISBN : 9780190253707

Joel Lobenthal
280 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jan 2016
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Alla Osipenko is the gripping story of one of history's greatest ballerinas, a courageous rebel who paid the price for speaking truth to the Soviet state. The daughter of a distinguished Russian aristocratic and artistic family, Osipenko was born in 1932, but raised almost in a cocoon of pre-Revolutionary decorum and protocol. In Leningrad she studied directly under Agrippina Vaganova, the most revered and influential of all Russian ballet instructors. In 1950, she joined the Mariinsky (then-Kirov) Ballet, where her lines, shapes, movement both exemplified the venerable traditions of Russian ballet and projected those traditions into uncharted and experimental realms. She was the first of her generation of Kirov stars to enchant the West when she danced in Paris in 1956. Five years later, she was a key figure in the sensational success of the Kirov in its European debut. But Osipenko's sharp tongue and candid independence, as well as her almost-reckless flouting of Soviet rules for personal and political conduct, soon found her all but quarantined in Russia. An internationally acclaimed ballerina at the height of her career, she found that she would now have to prevail in the face of every attempt by the Soviet state and the Kirov administration to humble her. Throughout the book, Osipenko talks frankly and freely in a way that few Russians of her generation have allowed themselves to. She discusses her traumatic relationship to the Soviet state, her close but often-fraught relationship with her family, her four husbands, her lovers, her colleagues, her son's arrest for selling dollars in Leningrad and subsequent death. This biography features a cast of characters drawn from all sectors of Soviet and post-Perestroika society.



1. A Storied Family

2. World at War

3. Coming of Age

4. Vaganova

5. First Love

6. Sidelined

7. Finding Herself

8. Seeing the West

9. Creation

10. Her Way

11. New Roles


12. Nureyev Defects

13. Repercussions in London

14. Left Behind

15. Swept Off Her Feet

16. The Gates Close...

17. ... And Open Slightly

18. Staying in the Game

19. Her Fate

20. Cleopatra

21. Return to London


22. Resigning

23. Ruptured Achilles

24. Roaming

25. Boris Eifman

26. Letting Go

27. Maternal Duty

28. Perestroika

29. America at Last

30. Artistic Credo

31. Home Again


About the author: 

Joel Lobenthal is Associate Editor of Ballet Review. He is the author of Radical Rags: Fashions of the Sixties, Tallulah! The Life and Times of a Leading Lady, and co-author with Elena Tchernichova of Dancing on Water: A Life in Ballet From the Kirov to the ABT.

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