Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olga Spessivtzseva (1895-1991) - Dancer of Absolute Perfection

Olga Spessivtzeva in 'La Chatte' (1927)

Born in Russia, ballerina Olga Spessivtzseva left the Mariinski Theatre in St Petersburg in 1916 to join the famed Serge Diaghilev Ballets Russes company on their South American tour.

Along with Vaslav Nijinsky ...

Vaslav Nijinsky in 'Le Deux Bleu' (1912)

... Tamara Karsavina ...

Tamara Karsavina in 'Les Papillions' (1914)

... and a number of other now legendary dancers!

There is only one record of Spessivtzseva's dancing - amateur footage of her in 'Giselle' at the Savoy Theatre in London in 1932. From this you have an idea of her exquisite technique. Perfect in its easy gentle and poetic precision.

The 'mad scene' at the end of Act One of the ballet is (unexpected) powerful - it unfolds slowly and inevitably, inexorably drawing the audience to the tragedy. Apparently Spessivtzseva wanted to visit madhouses to be able to make the expression convincing and true.

Though it might seem a tad melodramatic today, it was moving and real for its time, as Anton Dolin, her partner in the ballet, notes as the talking head of the second clip.

Sadly, Spessivtzseva suffered a nervous breakdown in 1943 and was institutionalized till 1963, when her mind cleared somewhat and she settled into the Valley Cottage on the Tolstoy Farm, a Russian community in Rockland County outside New York. She died aged 96.

My thanks and acknowledgment to 'goldenidol' who uploaded these fragments from the more complete film to YouTube.

Hope you weren't too confused when you start reading this guys, thinking perhaps you'd opened the wrong blog!


  1. thanks. yeah, it's good to step outside your areas of interest and see what else is about. take care. nick

  2. Figured I'd post a "thats cool" comment here too. Shockingly its not all about the man-meat for me.
    World history CAN be an interesting subject.

  3. hey greg. thanks for the 'cool' comment! old film can be (for me) a real window into the past - so damn intriguing. cya. nick