Ekaterina Maximova (1939)

Ekaterina Maximova is one of the most popular and beloved of the Russian ballerinas of the 20th Century.

Born in Moscow on 1 February 1939 she studied at the Moscow Choreographic Institute under the distinguished ballerina Elisaveta Gerdt. An exceptionally talented student she was taken into the Bolshoi immediately on her graduation in 1958 having already danced the complete role of Masha in Vainonen's Nutcracker.

Her creative biography is inseparably linked with that of Vladimir Vasiliev. They have been partners both professionally and privately throughout their adult lives.

Early in her career at the Bolshoi she performed a few smaller assignments such as the peasant pas de deux in Giselle, Colombine in The Bronze Horseman, the Bell Dance in Act 2 of The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, which she danced in Galina Ulanova's farewell performance, but soon under Ulanova's guidance danced her first Giselle in 1960.

However her first major success had already taken place in 1959 with the role of Katerina in The Stone Flower. This was her first meeting with choreographer Yuri Grigorovich and a collaboration which was last 20 years in which she danced a number of leading roles in his productions, most notably perhaps for western audiences Phrygia in Spartacus and Masha in The Nutcracker. These ballets, alongside Giselle were the backbone to many of the tours undertaken by the Bolshoi in the 1960's and 1970's. Her other main roles during this time at the Bolshoi were Kitri in Don Quixote and Cinderella in Zakharov's version of the fairy tale. She also danced Maria in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. In 1973 she added Juliet in Lavrovsky's version of the Shakespeare ballet to her repertoire.

Whilst Maximova took an active role in the development of Soviet contemporary ballet, she is unique among the artists of the Soviet period in that she was able to guest widely with foreign companies appearing with great success in the works of B?jart, Cranko and Petit.

She was always in great demand in Russia to work with the leading Russian choreographers. Maximova had a particular affiliation with the Moscow Classical Ballet. She performed the title role in Pierre Lacotte's Nathalie and also roles of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, and Eve in The Creation of the World, both choreographed by Natalia Kasatkina and her husband Vladimir Vasilyov.

Together with Vasiliev she toured independently from the main Bolshoi troupe from the early 1980's and took on many new roles created for her by her husband. Perhaps the greatest of all was her performance in title role of his full-length ballet Aniuta premiered on stage in 1986 based on a film recorded four years earlier. She enjoyed huge success with the Kremlin Ballet in Moscow in 1990 in the title role of his production of Cinderella.

Since leaving the stage she has worked at the Bolshoi Theatre as a pedagogue, coaching the leading soloists in ballerina roles. Also since 1982 she has been on the faculty of dance at Moscow's GITIS institute.

Maximova's artistry is complex and intense and she was adored worldwide. She can charm through the comic and light-hearted roles with her captivating smile alone. But that is an over simplification. She has an immense dramatic range shown by her success in roles as diverse as Nathalie and Juliet. But all of these qualities fuse together in the role of Aniuta, which perhaps tested her dramatic skills as an actress most completely. She has wonderful technical clarity, beautiful clean line, wonderful footwork and the ability to invest passion and drama into the smallest movements. Fortunately many of her roles have been preserved on film, often partnered by Vasiliev and prove a lasting document to her achievements and also to one of the greatest ballet partnerships in the history of dance.