Who Was Ballet Dancer Anna Pavlova?

A show at age 9 sparked this dancer's legacy

Ballet Dancer
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Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, brought a more traditional feel to classical ballet. She is remembered for her important contributions to dance. 

Here's an overview of her life. 

The Birth of a Legend

Pavlova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1881. She was a tiny baby, born two months premature. Her mother was a laundress, and her father died at a young age when Pavlova was only two years old.

Inspiration to dance

On her ninth birthday, Pavlova's mother treated her to a performance of "The Sleeping Beauty," a ballet that changed Pavlova's life. She decided then that she would one day dance on stage. She began taking ballet lessons and was quickly accepted into the Imperial Ballet School.

Ballet style

Pavlova was not a typical ballerina of her day. At only five feet tall, she was delicate and slender, unlike most of the students in her classes. She was exceptionally strong and had perfect balance. She possessed many unique talents. She soon became a prima ballerina.

Dancing around the globe

Pavlova formed her own ballet company and went on tour, introducing her classical style of ballet to the world. She visited several countries, traveling more than 500,000 miles by boat and train. She gave more than 4,000 performances.

Dancing in America

The United States loved Pavlova, and ballet lessons soon became popular for children across the country. She became known as the Sublime Pavlova.

She toured for the rest of her life, keeping a home in London. She loved exotic pets, several of which kept her company when she was at home.

The pointe shoe

Pavlova had extremely arched feet, which made it hard to dance on the tips of her toes. She discovered that by adding a piece of hard leather to the soles, the shoes provided better support. Many people thought of this as cheating, as a ballerina was expected to be able to hold her own weight on her toes. However, her idea became the precursor to the modern pointe shoe.


Pavlova never retired from dancing. In 1931, she became ill while rehearsing for a performance in Europe, but refused to rest. A few days later, she collapsed with pneumonia. She died within a week of her 50th birthday.

Inspiration to others

Pavlova believed that dancing was her gift to the world. She felt that God had given her the gift of dance to delight others. She often said that she was "haunted by the need to dance." She became an inspiration to others to learn how to dance and experience the joys of ballet.