Galina Ulanova

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Ulanova, Galina

(gälyē`nə o͞olä`nōvə), 1910–98, Russian ballerina, b. St. Petersburg. Ulanova made her debut at the Kirov Ballet (1928), where she danced until 1944. That year she became prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow, with which she first appeared in 1935, and she received numerous awards from the Soviet government. Noted for her lyric grace and beauty and the emotionalism of her superb acting, she excelled especially in Swan Lake and Giselle and in Lavrovski's version of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet (1940), in which she created the role of Juliet. First appearing abroad in 1951, she was lauded as one of the greatest ballerinas since PavlovaPavlova, Anna Matveyevna
, 1881–1931, Russian ballerina. In 1892 she entered the Imperial Ballet School, St. Petersburg. She made her debut in 1899 at the Mariinsky Theatre, but it was only after tours to Scandinavia (1907) and to Berlin and Vienna (1908) that she gained
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. After her official retirement in 1962 she continued to teach at the Bolshoi.


See A. E. Kahn, Days with Ulanova (1962).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ulanova, Galina Sergeevna


Born Dec. 26, 1909 (Jan. 8, 1910)’, in St. Petersburg. Soviet ballerina. People’s Artist of the USSR (1951). Hero of Socialist Labor (1974).

The daughter of dancers, Ulanova graduated in 1928 from the Leningrad Choreographic School, where she studied with her mother, M. F. Romanova, and with A. Ia. Vaganova. That same year she was accepted into the ballet troupe of the Leningrad Theater of Opera and Ballet (later renamed after S. M. Kirov). From 1944 to 1960 she was a soloist in the ballet troupe of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

The characters Ulanova portrayed possessed a unique fragility, vulnerability, and femininity (for example, the title role in Adam’s Giselle), yet, at the same time, were endowed with unyielding strength and heroic spirit (for example, Maria in Asafev’s The Fountain of Bakhchisarai and Juliet in Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet). Ulanova was the leading exponent of the roles in P. I. Tchaikovsky’s ballets, namely, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, and Masha in The Nutcracker. Her dancing was flawless and harmonious, based on an ideal combination of the real and the conventional. It was characterized by a rare harmony of all means of expression and choreographic elements. Ulanova was able to transcend balletic conventions and express the truth of human emotion on the stage. Her dancing developed the principles and traditions of the Russian school of choreography. Among her other roles were the title roles in Glazunov’s Raymonda and Prokofiev’s Cinderella, Parasha in Glière’s The Bronze Horseman, the waltz, nocturne, and mazurka in Chopiniana (also known as Les Sylphides), to music by Chopin, and the dance solo The Dying Swan, to music by Saint-Saëns. Ulanova, a consummate actress who embodied high tragedy on the ballet stage, created sweeping characterizations, conveying the most complex dramatic conflicts through dance. These qualities won her world acclaim.

Now retired from the stage, Ulanova works with young dancers. Her students include N. V. Timofeeva, E. S. Maksimova (Maximova), S. D. Adyrkhaeva, and L. I. Semenyaka. Over the years, she has toured extensively abroad.

Ulanova received the Lenin Prize in 1957 and the State Prize of the USSR in 1941, 1946, 1947, and 1950. She has also been awarded two Orders of Lenin, four other orders, and various medals.


Golubov, V. (Potapov). Tanets Galiny Ulanovoi. Leningrad, 1948. L’vov-Anokhin, B. Ulanova. Moscow, 1970. Bogdanov-Berezovskii, V. Galina Ulanova. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Kahn, A. Dnis Ulanovoi. Moscow, 1963. (Translated from English.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.