Galina Sergeyevana Ulanova was born in St. Petersburg Russia on January 8, 1910. She studied in Petrograd with Agirppina Vaganova at the Leningrad Choreography School, and her own mother, Maria Romanovna, who was a ballerina with the Imperial Russian Ballet.
Galina graduated 1928 and danced with the Kirov Ballet until 1944 when she transferred to Bolshoi Theatre by Joseph Stalin where she became Prima Ballerina Assoluta for 16 years. A year after she was transferred to the Bolshoi, she danced the lead role in Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella. Prokofiev was so fasinated with her he is quoted as saying, “She is the genius of Russian ballet, its elusive soul, its inspired poetry. Ulanova imparts to her interpretation of classical roles a depth of expression unheard of in twentieth century ballet.”
Her impact on both Russian and Western ballet was enormous. She was considered as unforgettable in Giselle, Romeo and Juliet, Sleeping Beauty, Les Sylphides, Fountain of Bakhchisarai and many others. In 1959 she became ballet mistress of the Bolshoi Ballet.
Galina was also a great actress as well as dancer, and when she was finally allowed to tour abroad at the age of 46, British papers wrote that “Galina Ulanova in London knew the greatest triumph of any individual dancer since Anna Pavolva“.
Galina retired from the stage at the age of 50, she taught many generations of the Russian dancers. Ulanova was the only dancer to be awarded Hero of Socialist Labour, and she was also awarded the highest exclusively artistic national title, People’s Artist of the USSR. She was also awarded the Lenin or Stalin Prizes in 1941, 1946, 1947, 1950, and 1957.
Galina died in 1998, she was 88 years old. Galina’s apartament in Moscow, is preserved as a memorial museum now. Monuments to Ulanova were erected in Saint Petersburg and Stockholm. See a video of her dancing Swan Lake in the video section.