The world of ballet centers around many things that are considered feminine. It can be argued that the ballerina is the most famous creation from the world of ballet. Lovers of all that is feminine dreamt about wearing puffy white tutus and leaping gracefully across the stage. Some of us didn’t dream of being the ballerina, but we loved how we felt when watching her.
There are a handful of women in this world who take their dreams of becoming a prima ballerina and do what it takes to make their dreams a reality. For those of us out there who either wished to become one ourselves, or for those of us who just love watching them dance, we thank the ballerinas for letting us live vicariously through them.
This blog entry is dedicated to four women who have taken their talents and worked hard to reach the success and honor of world renowned prima ballerina.
1. Marguerite Porter
In 1948 Marguerite Porter was born in Doncaster, England. After studying ballet in Yorkshire Marguerite Porter moved on to train with Dame Ninette De Valois at the Royal Ballet School in London. Porter completed her education in two short years and immediately joined The Royal Ballet.
Over twenty years of dancing as Principal Ballerina, a position she was bestowed in 1978, Marguerite Porter performed many roles such as Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Ophelia in Hamlet, and lead dances in Manon, Giselle, Daphnis and Chloe and many more. After leaving The Royal Ballet Porter would still perform as a guest. Marguerite Porter also appeared on Broadway, debuting in Swan Lake as the Queen in Matthew Bourne’s production.
Porter also danced her way across our screens, both silver and television in The Magic of the Dance alongside Margot Fonteyn and Comrade Lady. Since her days of ballet dancing Porter has built a name for herself in choreography. Her most notable productions are The Garden of Eros for the London City Ballet and Dancing at Lughnasa.
Today this ballerina is married to husband Nicky Henson and they have a son. She teaches at the Royal Ballet School and has also instructed at the Ballet Rambert and the Hong Kong Ballet. She serves as Director of the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars and is the governor of the Royal Ballet Company, where she first started out.
In 2015 Marguerite Porter was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the New Year Honors for her contribution to the world of ballet.
2. Dame Alicia Markova
Born in 1910 in London, Markova is renowned for her unearthly weightlessness and superb delicate nature she brought to the ballets she performed. For some time, she trained with Serafima Astafieva and Enrico Cecchetti and debuted with Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in France at the age of fourteen. From that point out Markova was dancing in lead roles of many productions.
Markova left Ballets Russes to dance with the Vic-Wells Ballet, now known as the Royal Ballet. She was their first prima ballerina and the first English born dancer to perform Giselle and Swan Lake in its full version. Companies she has performed with include the Ballet Rambert, Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo, and Ballet Theater, now known as the American Ballet. Markova also performed as a guest ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera.
In 1935 she, along with Anton Dolin, Markova founded the Markova-Dolin Ballet and later they got together once again to create the Festival Ballet in 1950, which is now known at the English National Ballet. After retiring in 1963 Markova became the director of the Metropolitan Ballet in New York City and remained in the position for six years. In 1969 she was appointed Dame of the British Empire.
3. Veronica Tennant
This Canadian producer, director, filmmaker and ballerina was born in London in 1946. At the age of nine her family moved to Canada and immediately started her training in the ballet having been a practicing dancer since the age of four. Tennant trained with Betty Oliphant and then moved on to the National Ballet School. Before graduating Tennant would suffer her first back injury. Still, despite her physical ailment, in 1964 Tennant became the youngest Principal Dancer the National Ballet Company had ever had. John Cranko and Celia Franca debuted Tennant in Juliet in the title role.
From there Veronica Tennant danced in every major ballet role in a classical sense where her performances earned her high praise. She also performed in many contemporary ballets that were choreographed with her in mind.
Partnered with famous male dancers of her time like Erik Bruhn and Rudolf Nureyev, Miss Tennant performed ballet all over the world.
In February of 1989 Veronica Tennant gave farewell performances as Juliet in the role for which she is most noted. She was made and Officer of the Order of Canada in the mid-seventies and was eventually given the rank of Companion of the Order of Canada in 2004. Victoria Tennant is the first dancer to be bestowed such an honor. She was also awarded the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.
She has also been awarded honorary doctorates from many universities and often speaks as their commencements. Other awards include the Toronto Arts Award and the Arts and Letters Award from The Canadian Club of New York City.
4. Amanda Schull
Our youngest ballerina on the list is Amanda Shull who was born in 1978 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Many people know her from television shows One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars but she also is a celebrated ballet dancer. She studied dance at Indiana University on a full scholarship. The summer of her sophomore year she trained at the San Francisco Ballet School Summer Intensive. Schull was given a scholarship to study in San Francisco another year. In 1999 she accepted an apprenticeship in the San Francisco Ballet, which was offered to her by the artistic director. Once she completed her role in Center Stage, a film about young ballet dancers in New York, Schull became a full time member of San Francisco Ballet’s corps de ballet.
Amanda Schull retired from the San Francisco Ballet in 2006 and from there started her television and movie career. She performed a guest roll on Lie to Me and had a role in the Lifetime Movie Sorority Wars. Schull was introduced to a larger audience on The CW’s One Tree Hill. She has appeared on the Ghost Whisperer and had a recurring role on ABC’s Pretty Little Liars. Still, having a mother who is President of Ballet Hawaii, Amanda Schull got her start with the art of ballet dancing.
The cover photo shows The Nutcracker performed by The Mariinsky Theatre.
PS: March was Women’s History Month! Take a look at how Cennarium honored women’s accomplishments in the performing arts with 3 select streamed shows!