|copyright (c) 2010, Sharon Edmunds|
Alla Shelest: Nikiya, La Bayadere, Acrylic on Canvas Panel, 24" x 18"
Alla Shelest was considered to be one of the most lyrically perfect, dramatically mesmerizing, and technically correct ballerinas of the Kirov Ballet. She was adored in the Soviet Union. Hardly known in the West. Sad timing. She was born in 1919, and graduated from the Leningrad Choreographic School in 1937. She became a soloist with the Kirov Ballet directly upon graduation. At that time, life for anyone in Leningrad was beyond difficult. She would be a Kirov star during the seige of Leningrad. She danced during the war years and later was included in one foreign tour with the Kirov, to London, in 1953. The Kirov's Artistic Director at this time was Konstantin Sergeyev. His wife was Natalia Dudinskaya, the Kirov's Prima Ballerina. Alla Shelest would not receive the attention her talent deserved. She would rarely be assigned Opening Night performances. And yet, when people heard that she would be scheduled to perform, lines would immediately form for tickets.
Rudolf Nureyev would graduate from the Leningrad Choreographic School in 1958 and immediately become a soloist with the Kirov Ballet. Alla Shelest was his favorite ballerina. He would not miss seeing one of her performances. He adored the lyricalness of her dancing and her gift to truly inhabit the roles she would perform. He would partner her in performances of 'Laurentia'. They would also dance 'Giselle' together. He didn't dance 'La Bayadere' with her at the Kirov. She would not be included in the 1961 Kirov Tour to Paris and London. He would make his Paris debut dancing a solo as Solor from 'La Bayadere'. The Paris audience went crazy. He was called 'The New Nijinsky'. He would not be on the plane to London. He would seek asylum in Paris. Throughout his career in the West, he would choreograph and dance 'The Kingdom of the Shades' act from 'La Bayadere' many times. He would rely on his memory of performances seen and performances danced from his time at the Kirov to reconstruct the Petipa choreography. The lyrical beauty of his choreography for Nikiya bears a resemblance to Alla Shelest's style. He would need to wait until 1992 to finally choreograph and produce his complete three act 'La Bayadere' for the Paris Opera Ballet.