November the 14th marked the 143rd anniversary since the birth of Ekaterina Geltser (14 November 1876 – 12 December 1962).
Ekaterina Geltzer. Russian-Soviet dancer who is generally regarded as the first ‘Soviet’ ballerina. She was the daughter of Vasily Geltser, mime artist and ballet master at the Bolshoi Ballet (who also co-wrote the original libretto for Swan Lake) and studied at the Bolshoi School from 1884, graduating into the company in 1894.She took further studies with Christian Johansson and Petipa in St Petersburg. In 1896 she went to St Petersburg to dance with the Mariinsky for two years, then returned to the Bolshoi where she was promoted to first ballerina in 1901.
A stocky dancer with a robust, even heroic style, Geltser was the definitive Bolshoi ballerina in the early part of the 20th century, her forceful stage personality showcased especially in the dramatic roles of Gorsky.
She created the role of Swanilda in Gorsky’s new staging of Coppélia (1905), Colombine in his Harlequinade (1907), the title role in his Salammbô (1910), Medora in his 1912 staging of Le Corsaire, and Tsar-Maiden in his Little Humpbacked Horse (1914). She also danced the traditional ballerina repertory, excelling most in the demi-caractère roles of Kitri and Esmeralda. She appeared with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in Paris in 1910; the following year at the Alhambra Theatre in London with dancers from the Bolshoi. She also appeared at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York with Mordkin’s All-Star Imperial Russian Ballet, dancing Odette-Odile in the first complete Swan Lake ever seen in America (1911).
One of her most significant creations was the role of Tao-Hoa in the groundbreaking Soviet ballet The Red Poppy (1927), choreographed by her husband and stage partner Vassily Tikhomirov. She retired from the Bolshoi in 1935, although continued to tour extensively in Russia.
She was one of the first ballerinas to be awarded the title of People’s Artist of the USSR (1925). – Oxford Reference
Source of photos: Bolshoi Ballet Academy archives.