Sofia Golovkina

(from the associated press)
MOSCOW – Sofia Golovkina, who danced for the Bolshoi Theater for nearly three decades and directed its school for more than 40 years, has died. She was 88.

Golovkina died on Feb. 17, the theater announced on its Web site, without specifying the cause of death.

She began dancing for the Bolshoi in 1933 and continued through 1959. Her roles included Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty” and Odette in “Swan Lake.”

When she started dancing, Soviet ballet was under intense pressure to conform to dictator Josef Stalin’s concepts of “socialist realism,” eschewing abstract moves and artistic pretensions regarded as decadent.

She danced the key role in “Bright Stream,” which was denounced by the Communist Party newspaper Pravda in 1936 as “false ballet” and removed from the Bolshoi’s repertoire.

The ballet, a collaboration of composer Dmitry Shostakovich and choreographer Fyodor Lopukhov, tells of a dancer who comes to a collective farm to introduce high-art concepts to the workers.

In 1960, she left the stage and became director of the Moscow Academic Choreography School, where she also taught classical dance. She retired from the school in 2001.

Her tenure “wasn’t just a directorship, it was a dictatorship,” the newspaper Vremya Novostei wrote the day after her death. The newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta described her as “Odette with an iron character.”

After the 1991 Soviet collapse, Golovkina complained that state funding for the Bolshoi and its school had dried up. She helped expand its reach, including establishing an academy branch in the U.S. resort town of Vail.

“You used to steal Russian stars. The time has come for you to create your own,” Golovkina told The Associated Press in a 1993 interview in Vail.

No information on survivors was immediately available.

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