It all began with a fouetté is the name of a new exhibition in Moscow to mark the 75th anniversary of the birth of Ekaterina Maximova.
Way before Sylvie Guillem came to be known as ‘Madame Non’, Maximova was nicknamed ‘Madame No’ at the Bolshoi for refusing interviews, photo shoots, and various proposals. Mikhail Baryshnikov admired her “elegant build, beauty, virtuosity and even more so her spontaneity and sincerity”. As The Times said,
Ekaterina Maximova was one of the greatest ballerinas in Russia or indeed anywhere else over the past half century.
The Daily Telegraph’s obituary, 5 years ago, read,
A tiny, ravishingly pretty woman, Ekaterina Maximova formed “the Golden Couple of the 20th Century”, as the Russians called them, with her husband, Vladimir Vasiliev. Enduring more than 30 years on stage, their partnership far outlived the Fonteyn-Nureyev pairing, and was no less renowned in the dance world.
The New York Times said,
Petite, dark-haired, fetching and charismatic, Ms. Maximova was an Audrey Hepburn-like figure in the Soviet-era ballet world, a dancer whose natural grace and unassuming radiance made her thrilling flights across the stage seem effortless. She was versatile, equally adept in classical ballets — “Giselle” was a signature role, which she first danced in 1960, coached by the celebrated Galina Ulanova — and modern Soviet works.
On 1 February she would have been 75, and Moscow’s Bakhrushin Theatre Museum is celebrating.
The exhibition has recreated a dressing room so that appears that Maximova has just popped out of the door for a moment, with her tutus, shoes, make-up mirror (which had belonged to Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the original Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull), bottles, combs, and other items she had to prepare for going on stage.
Projected footage from rehearsals includes Maximova with her coach and mentor, Galina Ulanova; working with her favourite teacher, Elizaveta Pavlovna Gerdt; and rehearsing with Pierre Lacotte. Memorabilia from the museum’s collection – with costumes, posters, photos, press cuttings, and so on – have been put alongside items loaned by Vasiliev, the Moscow Ballet School (including school reports and examination results), items from Natalia Kasatkina and Vladimir Vasilyov’s Moscow Classical Ballet, and the Kremlin Ballet.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.