Anna was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and after seeing a performance of The Sleeping Beauty when she was 8 years old, she decided she wanter to become a ballerina. "I always wanted to dance; from my youngest years...Thus I built castles in the air out of my hopes and dreams", she said herself about her passion for ballet. She was accepted by the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet School, and made her company debut in 1899.
|Anna in the role that made her famous - The Dying Swan, 1905. Source|
Except for her natural talent for dancing, Anna was also a hard worker. As she said herself; "No one can arrive for being talented alone. God gives talent, work transforms talent into genius". Her career blossomed fast, but it wasn't until 1905 she really made her breakthrough, by dancing the swan in Michel Fokine's The Dying Swan, with music by Camille Saint-Saëns. This became her signature role. But of course she danced many big roles in other big ballets too, and just seven years into her career she was promoted to prima ballerina - the second highest title (and quite rare) awarded to a ballerina.
|Anna in 1905. Source|
In 1911 she formed her own ballet company, with which she toured around the whole world. At age fifty, after dancing for thirty years, she decided to take a little Christmas vacation - but with the intention of returning to ballet after giving her body a bit of rest. On her way home the train she was on got into an accident. Anna was unharmed, but had to wait out the delay on the chilly platform - only wearing her silk pajamas and a thin jacket - for twelve hours. A few days later she developed double pneumonia. She was told she required an operation to get rid of the disease, but that if she went through with it, she would never be able to dance again. Her reply to this was; "If I can't dance I'd rather be dead". On January 23, 1931, she died in The Hague, in the early morning. On her deathbed she asked to see her swan costume one final time...
|Anna and her pet swan. Source|
Her ashes wer buried at Golders Green Cemetery, near the Ivy House, in London, where she had lived together with her husband and manager Victor Dandré. The house had an ornamental lake, where Anna used to feed her pet swans. In the picture above you can see her with her favorite swan, Jack. She loved animals and also had a Siamese cat, several dogs, and other birds. Here are a few more photos of this beautiful legend...
|In Italy, 1925. Source|
|In her dressing room. Source|
|Photo: Ira L. Hill. Source|
|A pait of Anna's well worn pointe shoes, before 1917. Source|