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Nina Semyonovna Youshkevitch (7 December 1920 - 3 November 1998) was a Franco-Russian ballet dancer and teacher.

Nina Youshkevitch and Zbigniew Kilinski in Chopin Concerto, 1937

She was born in Odessa, Russia on 7 December 1920, the daughter of the playwright and novelist Semyon Yushkevich and his second wife, Anastasia Solomonovna Youshkevitch, née Selinger. Her sister was lyric soprano Natalia Semyonovna Youshkevitch. The family left Russia in 1921, settling in Paris where they became French citizens. Youshkevitch trained with former ballerinas of the Mariinsky Theatre Olga Preobrajenska, and Lubov Egorova, and with French choreographer and ballet master Leo Staats. She also studied at the École du Louvre; and graduated in piano from the Conservatoire de Paris.[1][2]

Youshkevitch was a protegee of Bronislava Nijinska, who in 1930 brought her into the corps de ballet of the Opéra Russe à Paris. Staats also employed her in works that he staged for the summer season on the Côte d'Azure, including ballets on a floating, open-air stage; and in the Walpurgisnacht ballet in Faust, at the Nice Opera. In 1934, Youshkevitch joined the Théâtre de la Danse Nijinska where she made her debut as La Dame en Bleu in the ballet Les Biches; performed as the Bride in Le Baiser de la Fée; and danced en travesti among the men in Nijinska's Bolero. Along with other members of Nijinska's company, Youshkevitch went on to join the Ballets Russes for its 1934 Monte Carlo season. There she danced the Waltz in Les Sylphides, and appeared among the Amazones and Russian peasants in Nijinska's Variations.[3]

Youshkevitch was a principal dancer on the Ballets Russes' first tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1936-1937. [4] Here she starred as the Princess in Nijinska's ballet Les Cent Baisers, as Odette in Le Lac des Cygnes, and as Aurora in Aurora's Wedding. She danced the role of the Principal Nymph in Vaslav Nijinsky's L'Après-midi d'un faune; appeared as Action in Léonide Massine's Les Présages; and played leading roles in Massine's Les Contes Russes and in Michel Fokine's Carnaval and Les Sylphides. British dance critic Arnold Haskell, who accompanied the tour, wrote of her: "As a dancer the most astonishing was Nina Youchkevitch...she has an unusual sense of music and the grand manner that made her performances in Aurora's Wedding and The Swan Lake absolutely unforgettable...Among the younger dancers of this company she is the one obvious hundred percent classical ballerina."[5]

She followed her mentor, Nijinska, to Poland in 1937, where the latter founded the Balet Polski aka Les Ballets Polonais aka The Polish Ballets. In this company, which won Grand Prix for performance and for choreography at the Exposition Internationale in Paris that year, Youshkevitch created principal roles in the ballets Concerto de Chopin, Apollon et la Belle, and Le Rappel. The troupe went on to perform in London and in Berlin. Youshkevitch remained with the company after Nijinska's departure, performing with them at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.[6][7][8][9]

Narrowly escaping from Poland before the Nazi invasion, Youshkevitch returned to Paris. Nijinska invited her to reprise her role in Chopin Concerto at the Hollywood Bowl in 1940. Though Nijinska's telegram did not reach her until the concert had already taken place, it enabled Youshkevitch to receive a visa to travel to America; and she performed again in Chopin Concerto at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in 1942.[10][11] In the United States, she toured with the Polish company of Felix Sadowski;[12] [13][14][15]and performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She appeared as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, sponsored by the San Francisco Russian Opera and Ballet Association in 1945. Billed as the first full-length production of Petipa's ballet in the United States, in three acts and a prologue; it was the first full-length Sleeping Beauty on the West Coast.[16][17][18]

After retiring from the stage because of an injury, Youshkevitch began teaching at Nijinska's Hollywood Dance Studio; and at the Carnegie Hall studios in New York. She founded her own concert group called The Nina Youshkevitch Ballet Workshop, in New York City.[19] After her marriage, she taught for 13 years at Wayne State College, in Wayne, Nebraska.[20] She opened her own dance school, also called the Nina Youshkevitch Ballet Workshop,in New York City in 1978; and continued to teach there until shortly before her death. Among her students was Jennie Somogyi, later a principal with New York City Ballet.

In 1990, Youshkevitch assisted Irina Nijinska, in reviving the Bride's Variation from Le Baiser de la Fée, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. In 1995, working from notations, Youshkevitch revived Bronislava Nijinska's ballet Bolero for the Oakland Ballet, in California.[21][22] [23][24][25][26][27][28][29][30]She went on to revive Chopin Concerto for the students of Goucher College, in Towson, Maryland, in 1995-1996;[31][32][33] [34][35][36][37]and staged the ballet's second movement pas de deux for the Oakland Ballet in 1997.[38] [39][40]She was preparing to stage the full Chopin Concerto for Oakland Ballet when she died

She married Robert Johnson, and they had one son, who in 1998 was dance critic for The Newark Star-Ledger.[1][41] She died in Manhattan, at the Roosevelt Hospital, on 3 November 1998.[41]


  1. ^ a b "Obituary: Nina Youshkevitch". 14 November 1998. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  2. ^ Hunt, Marilyn (14 November 1998). "Obituary: Nina Youshkevitch". The Independent (London).
  3. ^ Detaille, Georges, and Gérard Mulys (1954). Les Ballets de Monte Carlo 1911-1944. Paris: Éditions Arc-en-Ciel.
  4. ^ Hall, Hugh P. (1948). Ballet in Australia, from Pavlova to Rambert. Melbourne: Georgian House.
  5. ^ Haskell, Arnold (1937). Dancing Around the World. London: Victor Gollancz Ltd.
  6. ^ Arkin, Lisa C. (Fall 1992). "Bronislava Nijinska and the Polish Ballet, 1937-1938: Missing Chapter of the Legacy". Dance Research Journal. 24/2: 1–16.
  7. ^ Wysocka, Tacyanna. Dzieje Baletu. pp. 436–438.
  8. ^ Mamontowicz-Łojek, Bożena. Terpsychora i lekkie muzy: Taniec widowiskowy w Polsce w okresie międzywojennym (1918-1939). Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne. pp. 59–65.
  9. ^ Turska, Irena (1983). Krȯtki Zarys Historii Tańca i Baletu. Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne. pp. 268–270.
  10. ^ "Nijinska to Give Ballets: 'Etude' to Bach Music, 'Concerto' to Chopin Piece, at Lee, Mass". The New York Times. 3 September 1942.
  11. ^ "Mme. Nijinska Directs Jacob's Pillow Ballet: Two Works of Russian Dance Leader Staged". The Berkshire Evening Eagle. 3 September 1942.
  12. ^ Lockerbie, Sarah (22 February 1942). "Enthusiastic Crowd Sees Polish Ballet". The South Bend Tribune.
  13. ^ Chujoy, Anatole (May 1941). "Dance in Review". Dance. 9/4.
  14. ^ Callaghan, J.D. (28 April 1941). "Wild Rhythm of Polish Ballet Pleases and Excites Audience". The Detroit Free Press.
  15. ^ "Balet Polski Podbil Serca Polonji Nowojorskiej". Nowy Swiat. 22 April 1941.
  16. ^ Hodel, Emilia (5 April 1945). "Nina Youshkevitch Stands Out in Sleeping Beauty Ballet". San Francisco Chronicle.
  17. ^ Frankenstein, Alfred (5 April 1945). "Ballet Given First Full Performance". The San Francisco News.
  18. ^ ""The Sleeping Beauty"". Dance. XIX, no. 4: 36. April 1945.
  19. ^ Manchester, P.W. (January 1953). "The Season in Review: Nina Youshkevitch's Ballet Workshop, YM-YWHA, New York, Dec.13". Dance News.
  20. ^ Denney, James (21 June 1959). "Wayne State College Acquires a Ballerina". Sunday World-Herald Magazine (Omaha).
  21. ^ Hunt, Marilyn (October 1995). "Nijinska Revival Continues: Nina Youshkevitch stages Bolero for Oakland Ballet". Dance Magazine: 74–77.
  22. ^ Felciano, Rita (Winter 1996). "San Francisco Report: Individual Voices". DanceView. 13/2: 27–28.
  23. ^ Ulrich, Allan (18 October 1995). "'Bolero' as it was at first: Oakland Ballet stages reconstructed work". San Francisco Examiner.
  24. ^ Ulrich, Allan (21 October 1995). "'Bolero' re-creates Spanish sensuality". San Francisco Examiner.
  25. ^ Roca, Octavio (23 October 1995). "Passion, Possession in Stunning 'Bolero': Oakland revives steamy Nijinska ballet". San Francisco Chronicle.
  26. ^ Roca, Octavio (30 September 1996). "Gems Unearthed in Oakland". San Francisco Chronicle.
  27. ^ Ulrich, Allan (28 September 1996). "Oakland Ballet hits 30, still amazes; Striking Nijinska revivals join list of superior stagings". San Francisco Examiner.
  28. ^ Murphy, Ann (22 October 1995). "Bit of brilliance evident in 'Bolero'". The Tribune (Oakland).
  29. ^ Taylor, Robert (19 October 1995). "'Bolero' returns". The Oakland Tribune.
  30. ^ Ulrich, Allan (Winter 1995–1996). "San Francisco Update". Dance International: 32–33.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  31. ^ Carbonneau, Suzanne (2 May 1995). "A 'Lost' Ballet Springs Forth". The Washington Post.
  32. ^ Horosko, Marian (April 1995). "Teacher Talk". Dance Magazine: 107, 109.
  33. ^ McKerrow, Steve (23 April 1995). "Keeping Time: Goucher presents 'Concerto' choreographed by Nijinska, remembered by ballerina". The Sun (Baltimore).
  34. ^ Johnson, Robert (Summer 1995). "Reviving Nijinska: a historical note". DanceView: 12–14.
  35. ^ Jackson, George (Summer 1995). "In Performance". DanceView: 15–16.
  36. ^ Conklin, J.L. (2 May 1995). "Goucher, Towson students show promise in programs". The Sun (Baltimore).
  37. ^ "Bronislava Nijinskas Chopin Konsert Återuppstånden I USA". Danstidningen: 22. April 1996.
  38. ^ Ulrich, Allan (27 September 1997). "Ballet with a memory but no money". San Francisco Examiner.
  39. ^ Murphy, Ann (28 September 1997). "Tinier dancers: Scaled-back Oakland Ballet opens season on up note". The Oakland Tribune.
  40. ^ Murphy, Ann (September 26--October 2, 1997). "Billboard: Sorority in Steps". The Express. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  41. ^ a b "Nina Youshkevitch, 77, Dancer in Nijinska Ballets and Teacher". The New York Times. 6 November 1998. Retrieved 14 July 2016.