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Dame Alicia Markova DBE
Markova in 1940
Lilian Alicia Marks
1 December 1910
|Died||2 December 2004 (aged 94)|
|Title||Prima ballerina assoluta and theatre company director|
Alicia Markova DBE (Lilian Alicia Marks, 1 December 1910 – 2 December 2004) was an English ballerina and choreographer. She also directed and taught ballet. She was the first British dancer to become the prima ballerina of a ballet company.
Markova was born and raised in London. She was a founder dancer of the Ballet Rambert (1931/5), the Vic-Wells Ballet (193/5), Markova-Dolin Company (1935/8), danced for the American Ballet Theatre (1941/5), and was co-founder and director of the English National Ballet. She toured with Dolin after the war until 1949. Her last period as a dancer came with the London Festival Ballet, which became the English National Ballet. She retired from professional dancing in January 1963 at fifty-two.
Markova's father was Jewish, and her mother converted to the faith. She began studying ballet with Princess Serafina Astafieva, a Russian ballerina living in London. Astafieva was a retired dancer of the Ballets Russes, a renowned ballet company founded by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev.
At 13, Markova was seen in class by Diaghilev, who was visiting London in search of new talent. He invited her to join the Ballets Russes in Monte Carlo, which she did in 1925, a month after her 14th birthday. She danced roles which were specially choreographed for her. She met some of the leading 20th century figures who worked with the company. They included Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Léonide Massine, George Balanchine, and Bronislava Nijinska.