As I love ballerinas, one of whom I met and admired was Margot Fonteyn, whose art and sensuality was to my eyes without parallel. It was, nevertheless, a brief encounter over lunch that cemented what could have become an everlasting friendship, had it not been for her gruelling dance schedule at the time and my own ambitious desire to forge a successful career in a variety of directions. But the memory of her remains with me to this day, as vibrant as it ever was.
Which leads me to the subject of a book Quartet published in 2012, Tatiana Leskova, the biography of a remarkable Russian ballerina who is one of the last surviving pupils of dancers from the golden world of the Imperial Russian Ballet. Born in Paris in 1922, where she studied with Lubov Egorova and other former Imperial Russian ballerinas. She joined the Ballet de la Jeunesse at the age of sixteen, then Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russe. She remained with the company, travelling to South America and settling in Brazil in 1945. In 1950 she joined the Teatro Municipal in Rio, going on to become a principal dancer, ballet mistress and artistic director.
In her ongoing freelance career, Leskova has continued to revive signature works by Leonard Massine created for the Ballets Russe. She staged Choreartium for Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1991 and for Het Nationale Ballet in 2001; and Les Presages for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1989, Het Nationale Ballet in 1994, the Joffrey Ballet in 1992, Ballet do Teatro Municipal (1998) and for the Australian Ballet in 2007.
In a recent visit to London Leskova, who is still passionate about dance, says she still enjoys the Scottish National Ballet at Sadler’s Wells and was off to see An American in Paris that evening.
In a long interview with the Stage* she stresses that for her dance is not about technique, but instead it’s what you do with the technique technically, adding: ‘because really technique is like a mechanical doll and dance is about art.’
Tatiana Leskova’s biography is still available from Quartet Books at quartebooks.co.uk. What a marvellous present it would make.