A recent Hollywood slasher took aim at ballet, but missed by a million miles. Maya Plisetskaya was the genuine article – a quintessential Russian ballerina, a sacred artist of astounding gifts and beauty. Her father was purged (murdered) by the Stalin regime and her mother was sent to a prison camp for wives unfortunate enough to be married to such men. In spite of her tragic past, Plisetskaya was one of the greatest dancers of her age, the prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi. For years she was prevented from leaving the USSR and was hounded by the KGB. Plagued by the government, she was also one of their prime trophies. Plisetskaya was idolized for her gifts – her incredibly high jumps, fluid arms, steely power, and glamorous magnetism made her the supremely adored ballerina of her time.
Her most famous role was in Swan Lake. Here she is as the Black Swan in her 1947 debut: