The Baltimore Sun


Bolshoi Ballet ballerina

Olga Lepeshinskaya, the Bolshoi Ballet's prima ballerina for three decades during the Soviet era, died Saturday of an unspecified illness, said Nataliya Uvarova, a spokeswoman for Russia's Culture Ministry.

Ms. Lepeshinskaya was born to a noble family in Kiev. When she first tried to enter the Bolshoi choreographic school, she was rejected. The school admitted her shortly afterward, in 1925, and Ms. Lepeshinskaya graduated in 1933, immediately joining the Bolshoi Ballet. She was rumored to be the favorite ballerina of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, and she received the Stalin Prize on four occasions.

Ms. Lepeshinskaya recalled in an interview published in the daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta in 2006 that Stalin once affectionately called her "dragonfly."

During World War II, Ms. Lepeshinskaya participated in the Bolshoi's traveling company, which performed before Red Army soldiers on the front line.

She recalled in the 2006 interview that she broke her leg during the first performance of The Red Poppy in 1953, but managed to complete her part despite four fractures.

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