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Dance Legendz III: Irina Mikhailovna Baronova

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Saturday, 17 December 2011 09:37



Irina Mikhailovna Baronova

Irina Mikhailovna Baronova, born 1919 in Saint Petersburg (then known as Petrograd) was a Russian ballerina also known as one of the prodigy Baby Ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. British critic Arnold Haskell was said to have given that name to the three ballerinas. Tamara Toumanova and Tatiana Riabouchinska were the other two members known as “baby ballerinas”. She was a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Dance and its vice-president and she was also a patron of the Australian Ballet School. Irina was first discovered in the 1930's in Paris by George Balanchine, a pioneer of ballet in the United States and notable choreographer. Irina created roles in Léonide Massine's Le Beau Danube (1924), Jeux d'enfants (1932), and Les Présages (1933); and in Bronislava Njinska's Les Cent Baisers (1935).Irina's family moved to Romania When she was less than two years old. When she saw a performance by Tamara Karsavina, Irina was amazed and began to grow a fondness of ballet. Then in 1928 the family moved to Paris in order to provide Irina with the proper professional training she needed. She was taught by Olga Preobrajenska, a Russian and Soviet actress and film director and also one of the first female film directors and the best loved ballerina of the Russian Imperial Ballet. Irina also studied with fellow prima ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska. It was at age 11 when Irina made her debut at the Paris Opera in 1930,and in 1932 George Balanchine took her into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo an influential ballet company. She played Aururo from "Sleeping Beauty". Partnering with British ballet star Anton Dolin, at age 14, she danced her first Odette in “Swan Lake".


    Irina                      Irina

Photo date: 1938 Irina Baronova / Photo by Maurice Seymour   Photo date: 1937 Irina Baronova c. 1937 Photo by Maurice Seymour


At age 17 Irina eloped with an older Russian gentleman by the name of German (Jerry or Gerry) Sevastianov and two years later they had a church wedding in to Sydney, Australia while she was still on tour. Eventually the marriage would end in divorce but in 1946 she met an agent named Cecil Tennant who also asked for her hand in marriage but with the condition that she would give up ballet. Although only 27 years young, Irina agreed and retired from ballet. Irina Mikhailovna Baronova appeared in several films between 1940 and 1951 and also in 1980 she worked as ballet mistress for the film Nijinsky. Baronova and Tennant had three children, Victoria, Irina and Robert. Victoria would marry actor and comedian Stephen Glenn Martin better known as Steve Martin. After Cecil Tennant was killed in a car accident in 1967, Irina moved to Switzerland and later resumed her relationship with her first husband, Jerry Sevastianov who died in 1974. In 1976 Irina returned to teaching master classes in the United Kingdom and the United States. After visiting her daughter Irina in 2000 in Bryon Bay, Australia, she decided to settle there. Then in 2005 she appeared in a documentary Ballets Russes and she also published her autobiography, "Irina: Ballet, Life and Love," in longhand despite losing most of her site.


Photo date: 1939 Irina Baronova / Photo by Maurice Seymour 


Irina Mikhailovna Baronova spoke at a symposium in Adelaide on the Ballets Russes tours of Australia five weeks prior to her death. Her daughter, actress Victoria Tennant, confirmed her death. At age 89, Irina Mikhailovna Baronova died in her sleep on Saturday June 28th 2008 at her home in Byron Bay. Irina leaves behind her children, six grandchildren, a great-granddaughter and a amazing career and performances.


 Photo date: 1938 Irina Baronova (Ballet Russe) / Photo by Maurice Seymour


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