Ballet dancer

Violetta Elvin, glamorous dancer with the Royal Ballet, has died aged 97

Violetta Elvin, who as a young Soviet ballerina brought her Bolshoi training and remarkable glamor to Britain’s Royal Ballet, died on May 27 at her home in Vico Equense, on the Sorrentine Peninsula in southern Italy. Italy. She was 97 years old.

His death was reported by his son and only immediate survivor, Antonio Savarese.

When Ms Elvin joined the Royal Ballet (then known as Sadler’s Wells Ballet) in London in 1945, there was no doubt – as there would be for the next 20 years – who was the principal ballerina of the troupe: Margot Fonteyn.

Ninette de Valois, the company’s founder and artistic director, was keen to create an international star and her casting policy openly favored Ms. Fonteyn. Yet a constellation of emerging ballerinas was also becoming visible in the business, and Ms. Elvin stood out among them.

In 2008, she was mentioned in the British magazine Dancing Times as a “glorious and glamorous” dancer.

In Russia, she was a soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet. She moved to London after marrying Harold Elvin, a British writer and artist.

Alex Bisset, a longtime friend of the Elvins, said in a telephone interview that Clement Attlee, the British Prime Minister and friend of Harold Elvin’s father, “had direct communication with Joseph Stalin” to ask permission for Violetta to marry Harold and leave the Soviet Union with him legally. Permission has been granted.

Violetta Elvin was born Vera Vasilyevna Prokhorova on November 3, 1923 in Moscow. His father, Vasily Prokhorov, an inventor, was considered a pioneer of Soviet aviation. His mother, Irina Grimouzinskaya, was an artist and actress.

Violetta joined the Bolshoi Ballet after graduating from the Bolshoi Ballet School in 1942. During World War II, she was evacuated with her family to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where she was invited to dance main roles in the Tashkent Ballet. The Bolshoi Ballet, which had been evacuated to the town of Kuybyshev, then asked him to join the company there.

When the troupe returned to Moscow in 1943, she danced the role of the ballerina in “Swan Lake” at the Bolshoi Theatre. But after being reprimanded for her contacts with foreigners, she was transferred to the ballet of the Stanislavsky Theater in Moscow.

Violetta had friends who invited her to parties at the British Embassy in Moscow. It was there that she met Mr. Elvin, who had fled to Moscow when the Germans invaded Norway, where he was visiting. When he applied to the British Ambassador for a job, he was hired as a night watchman at the Embassy.

She married Mr. Elvin in 1944 and moved to London, where Mrs. de Valois invited her to join Sadler’s Wells Ballet. Although she is extremely popular with the public and adapts to the repertoire, she appears more frequently in roles created for others. She only spent 11 years with the Royal Ballet, after which she made appearances with other companies.

She and Mr. Elvin divorced in 1952. She retired after marrying Fernando Savarese in 1959. An Italian lawyer, he helped run her family’s hotel in Vico Equense and died in 2007.

Mrs. Elvin was known for her distinctive qualities. In the title role of the 19th-century classic “Sleeping Beauty,” Ms. Fonteyn’s signature work, she triumphed as a young girl with, in Mr. Bisset’s words, “a smile that came from deep within.” of a different pleasure of dancing. ”

Frederick Ashton, the great choreographer of the Royal Ballet, created a few principal roles for Ms. Elvin. But he notably choreographed for her the erotic role of the seductress in “Daphnis et Chloé”, and he used his strong technique and natural grandeur in neoclassical centerpieces featuring four to seven ballerinas at a time.

Significantly, she excelled in ‘Ballet Imperial’, one of George Balanchine’s signature ballets, but which was new to the Royal. Her first casting in London had Ms Fonteyn as the lead ballerina, but her fast tempos and lack of visible step preparations did not come naturally to her.

Mrs. Elvin understood a more expansive way of dancing in the Bolshoi and, as with Balanchine, a more dynamic way of moving with “the attack”. After the Russian Revolution, Soviet teachers sought to modernize their ballet technique; by contrast, Madame de Valois’ company was inspired by the classical style of pre-revolutionary Russian ballet.

When Sadler’s Wells Ballet moved into the Covent Garden opera house in 1946, Mrs Elvin knew how to dominate a large stage, as Alexander Bland wrote in ‘The Royal Ballet: The First 50 Years’ (1981). But the company had played for so long on the smaller stage of Sadler’s Wells Theater that his dancing bore traces of “constriction”, as he put it.

In a memoir published in 1957, Madame de Valois explains why she hired Madame Elvin, the first Soviet ballerina to dance with the Royal Ballet. She had, according to Ms. de Valois, breathed “new blood into the company”.