Irina Baronova, born in Petrograd, was
one of the three legendary 'baby ballerinas'
who made such an impact on dance audiences
in the 1930s and 1940s. Her family fled
to Romania when she was one year old
and it was in Bucharest that she began
her dance training with an ex-corps de
ballet dancer from the Mariinsky Theatre.
Her talent was clear from the beginning
and the family soon moved to Paris where
Baronova continued her training with
Olga Preobrajenska. In Paris she performed
as a soloist at the Paris Opera in 1930
and the Theatre Mogador in 1931. In 1932
when just thirteen years of age she was
engaged by George Balanchine as ballerina
for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo.
She continued to dance with the de Basil
Ballets Russes companies until 1939,
coming to Australia on tour with the
Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-1939.
The historian Kathrine Sorley Walker
has described Baronova's dancing as combining
'the purist classicism, the most delicious
demi-charactere work and
a deep instinctive understanding for
the newer choreographic styles'. In Australia
she was much admired for her performances
across the repertoire and had particular
successes as the Queen of Shemakhan in
Le Coq d'or, as Aurora in
Aurora's wedding and as
'Passion' in the second movement of Leonide
Massine's symphonic work
Les presages. Her main partners
during the Australian tour were Anton
Dolin, Paul Petroff and David Lichine.
Baronova left de Basil in 1939 and
soon after began a new stage of her career
in the United States. From 1941 she appeared
with (American) Ballet Theatre in North
and South America and worked in Hollywood
in the 1940s before retiring to devote
herself to her family. She came out of
retirement at the urging of Dame Margot
Fonteyn to serve on the technical committee
of the Royal Academy of Dance and to
teach and coach.
Baronova lived the last eight years
of her life in Australia, in the hinterland
of Byron Bay, where she completed her
memoirs which were published in 2005
Irina: ballet, life and love.