Irina Baronova and the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo by Victoria Tennant - review by Rupert Christiansen

Rupert Christiansen

Dancing Queen

Irina Baronova and the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo


University of Chicago Press 244pp £38.50 order from our bookshop

Any social history of the 1930s should devote at least a paragraph to the Baby Ballerinas – three Russian teenagers whose dancing caused a sensation throughout the Western world. Stars of the Ballets Russes companies that continued Diaghilev’s mission after his death in 1929, they combined astounding technique with precocious artistry, fuelled by inexhaustible funds of energy that allowed them to perform twice-nightly for months on end, most of the time sleeping on trains and living out of suitcases.

London was the place where they first hit the headlines in 1933, their charms influentially hymned by the critic Arnold Haskell (who coined the term ‘balletomane’). The nymphet trio appear to have got on well with each other, despite intense rivalry for new roles and the spotlight. The three were

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