Serge Oukrainsky’s gossipy and sometimes catty memoire is very personal account, told largely from memory, of the ballet world in the early 20th century.  After a difficult childhood spent shuttling between Russia and France on his father’s whim, a pawn between estranged parents, aged 15 he embarked on a career as a painter.  He was over 25 when a chance remark at a dinner gave him the opportunity to take ballet classes with Ivan Clustine, initially with a view to partnering Nathalie Trouhanowa in some performances at the Chatelet Theatre.  In 1913 he joined Pavlova’s company, also meeting his long-term companion Andreas Pavley, and the book tells the story of his travels, including a narrow escape from Paris in 1914.

Anna Pavlova is barely mentioned before chapter 10.  At first, her performance failed to impress Oukrainsky (partly on account of her costumes), with the exception of Papillion [sic]:  “she appeared to me incomparable.  She was indeed a true butterfly … “.  (more…)

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