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Thomas Edur and Agnes Oaks, Britain’s favorite ballet couple, are returning to their native Estonia, where Edur has been appointed artistic director of the National Opera Ballet of Estonia. Oaks, who recently announced her retirement from performing, will assist her husband in the company and hopes to start a family. Since 1990, both have been members of English National Ballet, where they have created a unique partnership, performing with outstanding technique and unity. Edur is a true danseur noble who demonstrates softness, style, and elegance, while Oaks has been hailed for her pristine technique, grace, and delicacy. She is leaving the stage at the height of her career and will be sorely missed.
Both trained at the Estonian State Ballet School in Tallin, and first performed publicly together in The Nutcracker at the age of 13. At 16 they danced Coppélia together—and romance blossomed. Oaks studied briefly at the Bolshoi Ballet School but in 1989 returned to join the Estonian ballet company, where they partnered each other in Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. The couple was invited to USAIBC, the international competition in Jackson, MS, in 1990 when, under the Communist regime, foreign travel was limited. The two dancers slipped out of Estonia to Finland in order to fly to Jackson, where they won the best couple award and a contract from (then) ENB director Ivan Nagy. They moved to London where their classical refinement, heartfelt emotion, and genuine niceness made them favorites for 20 years. They have been guest artists with companies around the world, most recently appearing in the Maryinsky Festival in St. Petersburg. Together they have collected many awards, but last January, Oaks received best female dancer of 2008 in her own right at the British National Dance Awards, a fitting end to a superb performing career. —Margaret Willis
Eva Evdokimova (1948–2009)
Renowned Romantic ballerina Eva Evdokimova died in April. She was 60.
With a delicate port de bras and soft but powerful jump, Evdokimova received particular acclaim for her tender, innocent Giselle and her playful, airborne Sylphide. Her career spanned 150 works, and she was unusually versatile. She credited her range to training in three methodologies: Vaganova, Bournonville, and Cecchetti. Deeply musical and inherently dramatic, she was a fragile Tatiana in Cranko’s Onegin and a carnal Miss Julie in Birgit Cullberg’s ballet of that name.
Born in Geneva to a Bulgarian father and an American mother, Evdokimova began her studies in Munich, transferring to London’s Royal Ballet School at 10. In 1966 she became the first foreign ballerina to join the Royal Danish Ballet. In 1969 she moved to the Berlin Opera Ballet, where she was prima ballerina assoluta from 1973–1990.
In 1970 Evdokimova became the first American to win gold at the Varna International Ballet Competition, an honor that brought her international attention. She became guest artist at the London Festival Ballet and performed with the Kirov Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Tokyo Ballet. In 1971 Nureyev invited her to dance with him in La Sylphide, launching a partnership that lasted 15 years. The pair toured his Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet with London Festival Ballet to much fanfare.
Evdokimova was a sought-after teacher (see “Teacher’s Wisdom,” Dec. 2005) and coach, and was Boston Ballet’s ballet mistress in 2002–03. —Nicole Dekle Collins
Ekaterina Maximova (1939–2009)
She was a ballerina of rare quality who demonstrated the daintiness, precision, grace, and charm of Russian classics and the explosive, dazzling virtuosity of Soviet blockbusters. She filled each role with heartfelt dramatic content. So the unexpected and tragic death of Ekaterina Sergeyevna Maximova at her home in Moscow in April sent sadness and shock around the world. She had spent the evening watching a performance of Spartacus, a ballet in which she had created the role of Phrygia 41years before. Her husband and stage partner, Vladimir Vasiliev, was abroad on business but flew back immediately on hearing the news.
Maximova was born in Moscow and graduated from the Moscow Choreographic Institute under the tutelage of Elizaveta Gerdt in 1958. She was taken immediately into the Bolshoi Ballet, where her unique talents were quickly seized upon. She created the role of Katerina, with Vasiliev as Danila, in Yuri Grigorovich’s The Stone Flower. The duo forged an exciting partnership that contrasted his virility with her delicacy and set audiences cheering—including those on the company’s first American tour in 1959. Maximova danced all the classical roles, coached by Galina Ulanova, and most of Grigorovich’s ballets. The couple also worked with other choreographers, such as Goleizovsky, Béjart, and Petit, and made several dance films for TV. Petite and heartbreakingly lovely, she leaves a lasting memory as Don Quixote’s Kitri, where she sped across the stage with the fastest bourées, and spun, hands on hips, with perfect placement, balance, and contagious exuberance. —Margaret Willis
Photo: Laurent Liotardo, Courtesy ENB