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SAB 90 - Pierre Vladimiroff

Who was Vladimiroff?

Pierre Vladimiroff was one of the original teachers at SAB, teaching 33 years from 1934-1967. He had graduated from the Imperial Ballet School 10 years before Balanchine and he was married to Felia Doubrovska (at right in first video) who was also a long-time SAB teacher.

The New York Times obituary for Vladimiroff wrote:

“Mr. Vladimiroff, who joined the Maryinsky company in 1911, was named premier danseur in 1915. A Russian critic described him as “the ideal partner,” of “athletic build” but also an “excellent classic dancer.” He enjoyed spectacular success in Russia, and balletomanes would unhitch the horses from his carriage and tow it through the streets. [Which was considered a great honor]

“In 1912-14 and 1921-22, he danced with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, and replaced Nijinsky in several roles. From 1928 to 31, until Anna Pavlova’s death—he was a principal with the great ballerina’s company and was said to have been her favorite partner. He gave up his performing career after she died, devoting himself to teaching until his retirement in 1967. His gifts as a teacher had become apparent as early as his Maryinsky days, when prominent dancers, fascinated by the exercises he had invented while practicing alone, asked him if they could join him.”

Alexandra Danilova (left) and Felia Doubrovska (right) talking about Fokine and Vladimiroff. From Virginia Brooks’ “Felia Doubrovska Remembered”

Vladimiroff and Tamara Karsavina dancing the pas de deux from Sylvia in 1925.

Vladimiroff and Lydia Kyushu. Photo by Bassano Ltd. National Portrait Gallery, London, 1913.


What was Vladimiroff like?

Former NYCB dancer Barbara Walczak wrote:

“When Pierre Vladimiroff walked into the studio to teach I had the feeling that although he was there in body, his mind and heart were in a studio at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. He had been a good looking, brilliant dancer, technician, and a true star. His memories were always a part of his teaching.

“I remember a middle-aged, elegant, tall gentleman with piercing blue eyes. He was balding with hair slicked back a la Fred Astaire. He was impeccably groomed in a short-sleeved, soft-hued shirt with an open collar and pale blue or gray trousers and wore soft character shoes.

“He came and went very quietly, seldom stopping to chat with his fellow Russians and he never raised his voice in class. If something angered him you would see it in his eyes. There were times during class when a step would remind him of a ballet he had danced and he would tell us how ‘At Maryinsky I cross whole stage in one grand jeté’. Other times he would tell us about his triple tours or dancing with Pavlova in Les Sylphides.

“Vladimiroff spoke little English so we received very few corrections. I feel that we rarely met his standards but when he was pleased he would say “Easier for you now, yes?”

—Barbara Walczak, edited by Frank Matejcek, available on the George Balanchine Foundation website

(left and right) Photos by Frederick Melton, 1953.

(center) Photo by Martha Swope, 1959.


What did Vladimiroff teach?

“He taught us that the preparation and the step are all one, and he was ahead of his time with very large fourth positions with back leg straight and front arm extended forward slightly below the waist with a straight elbow and flexed wrist for pirouettes. It is much easier to dance when one considers movement as coiling and uncoiling with a sense of circular continuity. Vladimiroff stressed that even when balancing in a given pose there must be inner breath and vibration

“Vladimiroff’s classes are pure dance and a joy to perform. The fluidity and construction of the combinations make for invisible transitions and it is precisely this that makes his classes so valuable.”

—Barbara Walczak, edited by Frank Matejcek, available on the George Balanchine Foundation website

(left) Vladimiroff teaching. Roy Tobias at barre in front, Arthur Mitchell third at the barre

(center & right) Vladimoff teaching

Photos by Frederick Melton, 1953. NYPL

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