Born Marina Timofeyevna Semënova (commonly written 'Semyonova') on June 12 1908, this exquisite Russian ballerina and former star of the Bolshoi Ballet has long been credited with single-handedly reviving classical ballet (when it was under threat of dying out to the modernists of the 1920's). She is regarded by many as the finest Ballerina ever to come out of the Soviet, remaining a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Theater for two decades who, after retirement, devoted herself to her pupils and became a highly regarded and revered teacher.
The young Semyonova was born in St Petersburg, and encouraged to try dance lessons as a little girl by a friend of her mother. When she was ten she successfully auditioned for the Petrograd ballet school (previously the school of the Mariinsky theatre) which led to her coming under the tuition of Agrippina Vaganova, (the acclaimed teacher and choreographer responsible for creating the Vaganova method). In a later memoir Vaganova is quoted recalling her first encounter with the young Semyonova: "There appeared a little blonde, a diminutive girl with a small face who was unremarkable in appearance, one could even say homely," Vaganova observed her closely to see "what kind of 'specimen' had been added to my class". When Semyonova moved to the centre of the room and unfolded her leg to the side in a développé à la seconde, Vaganova said "I almost cried out in delight, so beautiful and expressive was this little creature's rendering of the movement."
Sadly, very little footage exists of Semyonova dancing in her prime, though she was described as being 'technically virtuosic and majestically expressive', a truly dynamic and engaging dancer who captivated audiences. Ms. Semyonova passed away on June 9th, 2010, just a few days short of her 103rd Birthday. Happy Birthday Marina, still an inspiration to dancers everywhere!
See here for Marina's full biography