Shortly after the founding of St. Petersburg in 1703 by Peter the Great, the world’s first ballet troop was born there in 1738. It later became known as the “Vaganova St. Petersburg Academy”. The original purpose of the ballet in Russia was to entertain the royal court and the extremely wealthy. However, in the early 19th century, the theaters were opened up to the “common folk”. There was a seating section called a “rayok” that consisted of hard wooden benches and anyone that could afford a ticket could attend.
In 1890 Sleeping Beauty, written by French author Charles Perrault was put to music and the ballet premiered in St Petersburg. Sleeping Beauty remains one of the world’s most popular ballets. Another huge hit- The Nutcracker also premered in St. Petersburg in 1892. It was later carried to America and remains a staple of the American holiday tradition. A few years later in 1895, the ballet Swan Lake premiered at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. The ballet is still alive and well in Russia and many Russian born protégés have formed their own dance troops and spread the ballet all over the world.
Anna Pavlovna, one of the world’s “prima ballerinas” was born and trained in St. Petersburg. She was originally rejected by the ballet due to her poor upbringing, “weak ankles” and “sickly appearance”. Anna is pictured above andCarlotta Brianza and Pavel Gerdt of the Imperial Ballet as Princess Aurora and Prince Desire in the 1890 premiere of Sleeping Beauty are pictured below.