Family misfortunes, love and a brilliant career: the main thing about the life of Maya Plisetskaya


Family misfortunes, love and a brilliant career: the main thing about the life of Maya Plisetskaya

Maya Plisetskaya

This year marks 95 years since the birth of Maya Plisetskaya. The most famous domestic ballerina is no longer with us: five years ago she passed away in Munich at the age of 89. The artist had a very interesting and eventful life (not without reason she released several memoirs). We tell the most interesting.

Maya Plisetskaya

Childhood and scary years

Maya was born in Moscow, in the family of diplomat Mikhail Plisetskiy and film actress Rachel Messerer-Plisetskaya. The spouses had three children, Maya was the eldest. In adulthood, she told in an interview:

Mom was a film actress and starred in at least ten films. Films were still non-sound then. She played an Uzbek, and always in Asia there were continuous tragedies. She played a leper, where horses trampled her. Some other film where she was burned alive in a house. Actually, I was just bursting into tears, although she was sitting next to me in the cinema, holding my hand and saying: "I am here, I am with you," but still I was angry that she was stopping me from crying.

Rachel Messerer-Plisetskaya
Rachel Messerer-Plisetskaya

The father of the future ballet star was the consul general of the USSR and the head of the coal mines on Spitsbergen, where the family lived for two years. At that time, Maya, by the way, first appeared on the stage – participated in a ballet production, where, according to her own words, "she played her tiny role with style."

Mikhail Plisetskiy
Mikhail Plisetskiy

When Plisetskaya’s father was temporarily returned to Moscow, the girl was sent to the Moscow Choreographic School. She was only seven years old, and she was accepted in defiance of the rules, requiring that the students be eight years old. They had to interrupt their studies when Maya's father was again sent to Svalbard.

There, you know, it was neither to the cinema, nor to anything. Then came the terrible years when his (father – Note ed.) were arrested, shot, mother got into the Gulag. So childhood wasn’t very fun,

– the ballerina recalled. Her father was arrested in the spring of 1937, and already at the beginning of next year they shot him. Three months later, her mother was taken directly from the performance at the Bolshoi Theater, where her younger sister Sulamith Messerer was dancing. Rachel, together with her baby son, ended up in the notorious Akmola camp of wives of traitors to the motherland. Sulamith after the arrest of her sister adopted Maya so that the girl would not be sent to an orphanage.

Maya Plisetskaya
Maya Plisetskaya

"Dying Swan" under the accordion

In 1939, the 14-year-old Plisetskaya for the first time performed the part of a dying swan in Kazakhstan's Chimkent, where her mother was exiled.

Mom insisted that I appear in public. "You get out of shape, you will be afraid of the audience. Do not forget, you must become a good dancer. You have talent." Some dumb exile played me a potpourri accordion from Tchaikovsky’s ballets. I improvised, got up on my fingers, broke a torso, alternated arabesques. Misty anticipation of the future "Dying Swan", but in the exiled Shymkent version, under the accordion. Success thwarted

– the artist wrote in her autobiography "I, Maya Plisetskaya."

Maya Plisetskaya and Nikolai Fadeechev
Maya Plisetskaya and Nikolai Fadeechev

"Dying Swan" later became the hallmark of a ballerina. The beauty of her movements literally mesmerized the audience. And being inspired to play this part, Maya went … to the Moscow Zoo.

I went there several times for the sole purpose of peeping swan plastic, the shape of the movement of the wings, the fit of the head on the curve of the neck,

She said.

In 1941, when the war began, the family was evacuated to Sverdlovsk. Maya had no opportunity to perform during the evacuation, no ballets were staged here.

Maya Plisetskaya

A year later, the girl returned to Moscow, graduated from college, after which she was accepted into the troupe of the Bolshoi Theater. At first, of course, she danced in the corps de ballet, but soon they began to give her solo parts – and then the main roles. In the ballet Sleeping Beauty, she played the roles of the Fairies of the Lilac, Fairies Violant and Aurora, danced all the women's parties in Don Quixote. Brilliantly played by Plisetskaya, the role of Kitri in this ballet was called a discovery in the performing arts.

Ballerina with character

Step by step, Maya went to the title of the brightest star of Soviet ballet and to world fame. She was praised and awarded, but the authorities prevented her from performing where she wanted: in the 1950s Plisetskaya was not allowed to travel abroad. Later, the ballerina learned that the KGB was considering her case on charges of counter-revolutionary activity and work for British intelligence.

She was strongly advised to join the party, but Plisetskaya promised herself that she would not do this. She hated Soviet power – for the shooting of her father, the arrest of her mother and the suffering of the whole family.

Maya Plisetskaya

The ballerina honestly said – her character is not sugar:

I am very demanding. And to myself too. And if you think that this is a bad character, what can I do? It is more difficult to change than to lift oneself by the hair.

Most of all, Plisetskaya, in her words, was always annoyed by injustice "both in art and in life," she tried in every possible way to fight against injustice.

Maya Plisetskaya

The artist was not afraid to speak out against the authorities and did this all her life.

I will give you advice, future generations. Listen to me. Do not humble yourself; to the very edge, do not humble yourself. Even then – fight, shoot back, blow trumpets, beat drums … Fight until the last moment … My victories only rested on that. Character is fate

– wrote the star in her book.

Maya Plisetskaya


In her memoirs, the artist admitted that she had novels with colleagues in the ballet scene. The first husband of the star was also the ballet soloist – Maris Liepa. He was only 20 then, Maye was 31. The marriage was very short: the couple divorced three months after the wedding. According to brother Plisetskaya, in fact the couple lived together and even less – only a couple of weeks.

They said that the gap happened due to another hobby of the ballerina. Plisetskaya in her books about her life honestly admits that in her youth she was very amorous. Regarding the broken marriage with Maris, Maya said that they simply "did not agree on the characters."

Visiting Lily Brik, the music of Vladimir Mayakovsky, Plisetskaya met with the composer Rodion Shchedrin. He, too, was seven years younger than the ballerina. Maya remembered the first meeting:

He was beautiful and extraordinary! He played great that evening: both his things and Chopin. He played like I had never heard in my life. You know, in art, a little droplet sometimes solves everything. Here he was a bit more inspirational, higher than other musicians.

After meeting, the composer was going to write ballet music with Maya and came to her rehearsal. The ballerina then recalled that the future husband could not take his eyes off her in a black elastic leotard, emphasizing her slim figure.

In 1958, the couple played a wedding. By the way, according to the artist, Rodion was in no hurry to marry her, but Plisetskaya was told that an official marriage would help her avoid the KGB:

Shchedrin did not want official marriage ties. But intuition told me – the authorities will torment me less if they are married. This was repeatedly hinted at.

The couple did not have children. Maya did not hide the fact that she chose to have an abortion when she became pregnant. The husband "without enthusiasm, but agreed" with her decision. The ballerina explained her reluctance to have children as follows:

If we even had one child, we would have a different life. We would only care about him, think only about him, would live only for him. And then I was not ready for such sacrifice. Having a baby is at least one missed career year. I was not sure that, having spoiled the figure and having missed a year, I could return to the stage. The risk was enormous. And I did not dare.

In an interview, Plisetskaya always enthusiastically spoke about her husband, called him special, even a genius. According to the ballerina, Shchedrin surrounded her with care and attention, was constantly there, often accompanied on tour. He wrote music for ballets in which she performed: "Anna Karenina," "The Seagull," "The Lady with the Dog." The actress believed that it was thanks to her husband that her career lasted so long. And the main success in her life was called not a dizzying career, but the fact that she had a "wonderful husband."

Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin
Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin

The graceful, always tastefully dressed Plisetskaya was constantly surrounded by fans, among whom were famous and influential men. They wrote that in the early 60s, the brother of the US President Robert Kennedy, whom she met during an American tour, beautifully looked after her. But, as the ballerina said, there was only friendship between them:

With me, Robert Kennedy was romantic, exalted, noble and completely pure. No claims, no frivolity. And I never gave him any reason.

The politician often congratulated Plisetskaya on his birthday: they were born on the same day and even one year – November 20, 1925.

Robert Kennedy
Robert Kennedy

The poet Andrei Voznesensky was also fascinated. He wrote about Plisetskaya:

A splash of applause is heard in her name. She rhymes with weeping larches, with Persian lilacs, the Champs Elysees, with the coming. There are poles geographic, temperature, magnetic. Plisetskaya is the pole of magic.

"Do not eat"

The ballerina said that when meeting with her people were always surprised: on the stage she seemed tall, but in fact her height was only 165 centimeters. Contrary to the stereotype of ballerinas always dieting, Plisetskaya admitted:

I always ate a lot. And my weight was a little more than necessary. There were times when I lost weight, but unintentionally – just because of rehearsals I did not have time to eat.

Maya Plisetskaya

The ballet star said that she loves beer with sausages, adores herring, and bread and butter is generally "the best that people have come up with." At the same time, to the questions of journalists how to maintain a beautiful figure, Plisetskaya answered simple to genius:

Do not eat! A more effective method has not yet been invented.

Maya Plisetskaya

Later, the ballerina softened her famous quote a little:

This is more in theory. But in life everything is possible, but little by little.

Maya did not hesitate to admit her own laziness and that she "never loved to practice and rehearse." But the ballerina saw this rather as a plus: she kept her legs “unexcited”, which allowed her not to leave the stage for many years.

Maya Plisetskaya

Until old age, Plisetskaya looked an elegant and well-groomed woman, with an excellent figure and proper posture. At the same time, she believed that the desire to be young never adds attractiveness to a woman:

There is no escape from wrinkles … But a young man or an old woman is ridiculous … You know, there is an old garden and a new garden. But he is neat and tidy – this is a completely different matter. It’s the same with a person’s face: one can always see whether it is well-groomed or neglected.

Maya Plisetskaya

Life after the ballet

Maya Plisetskaya completed her career at the age of 65. But five years later she danced in Ave Maya’s choreographer Maurice Bejart’s specially staged for her.

Plisetskaya usually spoke approvingly of modern ballet, although she once said that "the soul has left the dance," because today "following the technique, many forget about emotions":

Now they dance better. Our devil knows what form the ballerinas had. Small snags, cuttlefish. Now the girls are like models. Male dance has grown unheard of.

Maya Plisetskaya and Pierre Cardin
Maya Plisetskaya and Pierre Cardin

Plisetskaya also did not criticize extravagant finds in modern productions:

When I see now naked, such, on the stage, I rejoice and rub my hands: here you are, eat! They didn’t allow us anything! After all, it turned out that the Communists in their fur coats made their children.

Since the beginning of the 90s, Maya and Rodion lived in Munich. By the way, the couple never got their own housing: Plisetskaya did not see the need for this.

Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin

She said:

We rent an apartment. These are, as they used to say, furnished rooms. It suits us … I do not find joy in showing off. I find this a concern. If you have a house, you need to clean it, keep it. Guard! And as in a hotel, it’s convenient for me. I knew famous people who have lived this way all their lives. For example, Nabokov.

Maya also never particularly liked to cook at home, she preferred to eat in cafes and restaurants. In Munich, she and her husband were known in many institutions as regular customers.

Maya Plisetskaya

Plisetskaya has published three books about her life, and, it is said, she carefully read and edited each herself.

Before her 90th birthday, the ballet star did not live: on May 2, 2015, she died in Germany from an extensive myocardial infarction. Rodion Shchedrin spoke about the last months of Plisetskaya’s life:

In April, we were in Russia. First in St. Petersburg, at the Mariinsky Theater, on my premier Lefty. Maya sat at the banquet with everyone until 5 in the morning, was cheerful. All told how to hold out this year – to the anniversary.

Then we arrived in Moscow, all kinds of things were there. Including the upcoming anniversary. Returned to Munich. We went to the eve of football, she loved to be at the stadium. And suddenly the heart grabbed.

Maya Plisetskaya

Rodion Shchedrin is now 87 years old, he still lives in Germany. Sometimes it happens in Moscow: for example, three years ago on the birthday of his famous wife, he attended the opening of her sculptural portrait in the image of Carmen. The monument was erected precisely on his initiative, the sculpture was erected on Bolshaya Dmitrovka – in the place where Plisetskaya loved to walk, arriving with her husband in the capital.

When Plisetskaya died, her will was announced: in it, the ballerina asked to combine her ashes with the ashes of Shchedrin after his death and dispel it over Russia.

Maya Plisetskaya


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