The dignity of ballerina Natalia Makarova 9

Dance · Film

I was struck by a passage in Natalia Makarova‘s biography, “A Dance Autobiography,” (Knopf, 1979) edited by Robert Gottlieb (“What did ballet ever do to deserve this?”) when he was editor-in-chief at the New York publishing house.

The text recalls an indignity Makarova suffered at the Kirov Ballet soon before she defected to the West in 1970.

I rebelled only once, when I was asked to make the film of Swan Lake which was later seen in the West with Elena Evteyeva. The director turned out to be a terrible nonentity who had no taste whatever. I looked at some of the filmed material and was horrified: it was a tasteless production, pure frippery, with some kind of clouds wafting around tiny swans. More important, the director understood nothing about ballet, having previously filmed only some Russian fairy tales for children.

He undertook to teach me how to dance Odile: “Dance as if you wanted to seduce me.”

At this point, I lost patience. “I haven’t the slightest desire to do that to you,” I said, and walked off the set. I refused point-blank to go back on — let others work with this blockhead.

Sound familiar? I thought so too. Reminds me of the tasteless “Black Swan” movie now contaminating the world of ballet. My review, “A Raw Deal for Odile” here.

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Separately, please enjoy this video of Makarova rehearsing the Act II pas de deux from “Giselle,” with the lovely Sasha Godunov as Albrecht.

9 thoughts on “The dignity of ballerina Natalia Makarova

  1. cindy r wirth Apr 19,2022 9:29 am

    Thank you for this wonderful thread. Natalia Makarova and Baryshinikov’s relationship is a curious one. Makarova is 8 years senior to Misha. Both were young talents at Kirov Ballet. Makarova joined Kirov at age 19 in 1959 and Baryshinikov joined in 1967 at age 19. Makarov remained at Kirov till 1970 until she defected. I could not find any records of her dancing with Godunov while in Russia. But after Godunov’s 1979 defection did Makarova and Godunov dance together or was it prior to his defection. There are many Youtube films but no dates or locations mentioned. Thank you if anyone wishes to comment or contact me direct.

  2. Kathleen Mar 20,2019 2:38 pm

    Great article
    Makarova and Godunov were wonderful in Giselle rehearsal!!!

  3. Lucia Winn Aug 6,2018 5:18 am

    Dane Youssef,

    I really love your comments and agree with them 100%.

    Alexander Godunov and Natalia Makarova could have been the greatest ballet duo ever had they had a chance to develop a real partnership.

    Alas… others did not want it to happen.

    Sometimes the brightness is too great for those who have the power but not the same talent and beauty.

  4. Lucia Winn Mar 22,2018 10:20 am

    The perfect duo: Makarova & Godunov.

    Something unbelievably wonderful…

  5. Dane Youssef Jul 18,2016 3:59 pm

    I HAVE OFTEN MADE THE REMARK in my comments that I personally find and believe Natalia Romanovna Makarova to be the greatest ever to dance the dance. To dance ballet–or perhaps even to dance at all, even. She just… had it.

    She said one of the tricks she used in her performances was “making myself fall a little in love with my partners.” She remarks that she loved them all in her own way. One would expect Nureyev to be the only guy who could match her. But… they personally had some beef. He found her trying while they rehearsed and when they performed a live ballet in Paris, he personally just intentionally let her fall to the ground. A ballerina needs to be able to trust her cavalier with her very life. More than her life… more than her life. She had some personal favorites. Astounding, Baryshnikov himself didn’t make the list.

    But here’s the funny thing… she preferred partners who would make treat her like a lady, like a Queen. Better yet, like a princess. Someone who would romance her passionately rather than match her abilities on the stage. Could anyone? But… I’ve also trumpeted for some time about the late, great Alexander Borisovich Godunov. He wasn’t as celebrated as he left ballet so early…

    But who had the best on-stage chemistry with Makarova? Who was good enough to match her–even outshine her on that stage? I’ve seen the beastly dominant panther-like way that Alex ruled a stage. And… yeah, he very well may have. I’d like to see a full performance of the two of them. They’re both so good, yet both so opposite–still quite so Russian. They’d have an ideal fire-and-ice dynamic, like “Rudi and Margot.”

    A backstage rehearsal between two professional greats… See, I’ve always and often found the labor, the “making of”, the “behind-the-scenes” more interesting than the final result we see on the stage. But… I would like to see the final piece of this. Whatever they’re dancing…

    These two really should have had a much longer run together… Maybe just a few more ballets together… “Misha” really should have kept him around. Look up the whole history on them for further information…

    To these two… Salud. And Merde…

    –Sincerest Love As Always, DANE RAMADAN YOUSSEF

  6. Sam Buker Jan 11,2011 2:28 pm

    Ah Makarova is my kind of dancer! Thanks for the interlude. I adore her Tatiana…

  7. nina ballerina Jan 11,2011 12:44 pm

    Thank you! What a lovely diversion.

  8. Debra Cash Dec 31,2010 10:30 am

    Thanks for reminding us that just because real — not fictional — dancers have dealt with this kind of nonsense from their directors before, that doesn’t mean they responded like the fictional Nina Sayers.

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