Obituary: Sulamith Messerer ; Inspirational Ballet Teacher
Roebuck, Gavin, The Independent (London, England)
THE SOVIET ballerina Sulamith Messerer became one of the world's great ballet teachers.
She was born in Moscow in 1908 and trained at the Bolshoi School in Moscow from 1920, joining their company in 1926. She seemed to have a photographic memory for choreography; soon after she joined the Bolshoi as a member of the corps de ballet, the soloist scheduled to dance the pas de trois in Swan Lake was taken ill in rehearsal and Messerer immediately stepped in to dance the whole variation.
Within three years, she was dancing leading roles in the repertoire, her first ballerina role in 1929 being Lise in La Fille Mal Gardee. Kitri, the leading female role in Petipa's classic ballet Don Quixote, was her favourite and perhaps best role, although she was also highly regarded as Zarema in the Soviet classic The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.
In 1933, with her famous brother Asaf as a partner, she was the first Soviet ballerina to tour the West, visiting Scandinavia, France and Germany. Her performance career lasted about 25 years. She brought to her dancing a vitality, attack and tautness of line, said a 1940s critic, combined with a humorous personality and a wiry athletic physique.
After her elder sister was sent to the Gulag in the 1930s, Messerer refused to send her niece to an orphanage and brought her up - the future ballerina Maya Plisetskaya - herself.
All great ballet teachers have the work passed down to them from the masters of the past, and Messerer was no exception. …