A storm is brewing over a move to fly the ashes of a famous Russian prima ballerina from their current home in London to a new resting place in Moscow.
The remains of Anna Pavlova, star of St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre (pictured) during the early years of the 20th century, have apparently been booked on a flight to Moscow next week.
BBC News Online reports that the initiative is being coordinated by the cemetery where the ashes are currently held, in Golders Green, north London. But relatives of Pavlova are understood to be not happy at all at the move, with the dancer’s niece, Valentina Trifonova, describing it as “nonsense”.
The manager of the cemetery, Harvey Thomas, maintains that sending the ashes to Moscow fulfils a clause in the will of the ballerina’s husband, Victor Dandre. Pavlova, who died of pleurisy in a hotel in The Hague in 1931, left no will of her own but shortly after her death Dandre is understood to have said her ashes could be moved back to Russia if state or local authorities initiated the reburial and treated her remains with due reverence.
Pavlova’s relatives claim, however, that the move has been sanctioned neither by the Russian government nor by the ballerina's family.
Leonard Newman, the custodian of Pavlova's London museum house, told Russian news agency Itar-Tass that he has asked the British courts to ban the move because Pavlova “didn't make a will”.
Alexander Tantlevsky, of the city of Moscow's culture committee, told Moscow Echo radio that the authorities had not sanctioned the move, and that Dandre's claims to speak for Pavlova may be suspect.
But the BBC said Thomas had insisted the project had been fully transparent. “It's all been terribly open...and here we've been dealing with the Home Office, we've consulted the minister of arts and are in close touch with the Foreign Office.”
Pavlova both trained and starred at the Mariinsky – home to the famous Kirov Opera and Ballet, which are directed by GMN Family Artist Valery Gergiev. She also became a star of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe but did not stay there long. Experts speculate that she may have had doubts that the company could succeed, she may have been unable to bear Diaghilev's notorious authoritarianism or she may have hated sharing the glory with the famous Nijinsky, the male star of the troupe.
She left left Russia in 1914 and lived much of her life in hotels. Her extensive travels took her 350,000 miles in 15years - and this was long before airplanes were the normal form of international travel. She introduced ballet to remote parts of the world and is said to have inspired “balletomania” thousands of miles from her native Russia. Pavlova is also credited with inspiring Sir Frederick Ashton, the brilliant choreographer and director of England's Royal Ballet, who became a dancer because he was smitten by the performances he saw Pavlova give in Lima, Peru, when he was a boy.
When Pavlova became ill she chose to die rather than undergo a life-saving operation that would have damaged her ribs and left her unable to perform. Famous for her rendition of Saint-Saens’ The Dying Swan, as she lay dying herself she is reported to have opened her eyes, raised her hand and said simply: “Get my swan costume ready.”
Thu Mar 8 2001 (5:26:13 PM)