Last survivor of the Ballets Russes?

Last survivor of the Ballets Russes?


norman lebrecht

September 01, 2017

The dancer Tamara Tchinarova died yesterday at her daughter’s home in Spain at the age of 98.

Of Armenian, Georgian and Ukrainian descent, she trained with Olga Preobrazhenskaya and in 1932 was recruited by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo where she was known as one of Balanchine’s Baby Ballerinas.

She decided to stay in Australia at the end of her second tour in 1939. Four years later, she married the hell-raising actor Peter Finch. After their divorce in 1959, she settled in London as a dance writer and interpreter.




  • Judy Hirsch says:

    The death of each of these classic dancers is a loss. However, Tamara Tchinarova was not the last survivor. Sonja Tyven, who was married to Bobby Lindgren until his death in 2013, still survives and lives in North Carolina. I was fortunate to have Sonja and Bobby as my teachers in Arizona when I was young. She was with the Ballet Russes from 1945 to 1952.

  • Russian Opera buff says:

    She is NOT the last survivor of the Ballet Russes….

    My mother is (she is also the last survivor of the cast of “the red shoes” and was also in “Tales of Hoffmann”).

    She will be 88 this year.

    She studied with Pavlova’s assistant Cleo Nordi.


    It all depends which of several incarnations of the Ballets Russes you are referring to. Tatiana Leskova still very much alive; also, I think, Nini Theilide …

    • Russian Opera buff says:

      “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

      As usual the press get it all wrong, and can’t be bothered to check.

  • Don Hohoho says:

    There are probably many dancers left who were in the Denham company, which didn’t close down until the early 1960s.

  • Russian Opera buff says:

    As a background, there were also a lot of the dancers in “The Red Shoes” & “Tales of Hoffmann” who came straight out of Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo, some from Sadler’s Wells which was run by that horrible tyrant Ninette de Valois, and some from elsewhere.

    Jack Cardiff, one of the most influential cinematographers in film history only died in 2009. Diana Gould ended up as Menuhin’s wife.

    Leonid Massine we know about was very active in the revival of the later London Ballet Russes.

    It’s difficult to imagine the rivalries, and the tensions today where competing organisations competed for a slice of the Ballet Russes name in London before and after the war.
    It ended up having the original costumes brought over on constant loan from France where the other emigrés like Preobrazhenskaya had ended up.

    There was an exhibition in V & A London some years back of some of the costumes, and one of the assistants of that museum has some considerable background knowledge of the period and the personalities.
    The costumes were all sold off at auction some 20 years ago.

    The novel “a bullet in the ballet” is a parody of Ballet Russes.

    It’s the 100th anniversary of the revolution in just 1 month, which set all these figures like Diaghilev, Pavlova, Toumanova on the road to leave Russia.

    Without them there would be no Western Ballet tradition as we know it.

    It’s clear it’s well overdue a proper history of this period were written before they all vanish for ever.

    • Misha says:

      There is a book, from 2011, “The Ballets Russes in Australia and Beyond”, ed. Mark Carroll, published by Wakefield Press. Excellent.

  • Russian Opera buff says:

    One little souvenir.

    Ninette de Valois treated dancers with contempt. “If you ever leave, I will never ever take you back again”. She used people’s SURNAMES to address them.
    My mother said it was “like being in the army”, and she broke more than dancer with her vicious comments.
    The dancers said “I am sure like this she will live to a ripe old age” poisoning the world like this.
    And she did! She lived to be nearly 100.

    In Ballet Russes, they treated you as a human being, addressing you by your christian name.
    No suprise, the dancers gave of their best and loved it.

    Now they do a Diaghilev festival in his home city.
    Nothing could be more fake than that.
    The Diaghilev house is not fake, and neither his grave next to Stravinski in Venice.