The Legendary Ballerinas of the 20th Century

Even though I have been dancing ballet since I was four, it’s taking me a long time to regain the skill I had before I stopped taking formal lessons. To stay motivated, I like to learn about other ballerina’s who worked really hard to become Primas and became legends. Reading about their careers reminds me that they put in many years of hard work and training before they got to the top of their game and made a name for themselves.

So many more dancers have also earned the title of a ballet legend. Which ones inspire you? If you want to add your name to this list, check out Cennarium for a list of the best ballet schools in the world.

Lisa Macuja

She is my personal idol, because she is the first Prima Ballerina to come from the Philippines. Macuja is the Artistic Director of Ballet Manila and Vice-Chairman of the Philippine UNESCO National Commission, and also Directress and faculty member of the Ballet Manila School – a training center for ballet professionals who are steeped in the Russian Vaganova method.

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Anna Pavlova 

Born in Russia in 1881, Anna Pavlova made a company debut in 1899, and was promoted to prima ballerina just seven years into her ballet career. Her breakthrough performance was in The Dying Swan in 1905, which became her signature role. In 1911, Pavlova formed her own ballet company so she was able to retain complete creative control over performances. She was even able to choreograph her own roles. As if that were not impressive enough, her company was the first to tour ballet around the world. For the final two decades of her ballet career, she toured with her company all over the world, as little girls watched in awe and were inspired to become dancers. 

Margot Fonteyn 

For more than 40 years, English ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn de Arias dominated British ballet. In 1933 Fonteyn joined the Vic-Wells Ballet School, the predecessor of today's Royal Ballet School. After starting with the Vic-Wells Ballet, she rose quickly through the ranks of the company. By 1939 Fonteyn had performed principal roles in Giselle, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty and was appointed Prima Ballerina. She spent her entire career as a dancer with The Royal Ballet, and was eventually appointed Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the company by Queen Elizabeth II in 1979. 

Audrey Hepburn

I said in an earlier post that I had no idea Audrey Hepburn was a ballerina, and this just made me love her more. She began taking ballet lessons while she attended the Arnhem Conservatory from 1939 to 1945 and continued training in Arnhem under the tutelage of Winja Marova, becoming her “star pupil.” An accomplished dancer by the age of 14, she used her talents in ballet to raise money for the Dutch resistance against the Nazis by holding secret performances. She famously said: “The best audience I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performances.” 

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Disclosure: This article is published in partnership with Mediabuzzer.

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