Celebrate Natalia Makarova’s 80th Birthday With These Rarely Seen Archival Photos

November 23, 2020

November 21 marks Natalia Makarova’s 80th birthday.

The ballerina made international headlines in September 1970 when she defected from the Soviet Union while on tour with the Kirov Ballet in London. That December, she made her American Ballet Theatre debut, an association that altered the company’s trajectory.

“In ballet, stardom doesn’t come overnight as it does in Hollywood,” she told Dance Magazine in the August 1985 issue, “…because we work every single day of our lives to improve ourselves…So if a dancer becomes a star, that stardom has been won through the sweat of our brows.”

Makarova found success outside of ballet as well, winning Tony and Olivier awards for her performances in the musical On Your Toes. She continues to coach at ABT.

A black and white archival image showing Natalia Makarova as Odette, balancing in sous-sus en pointe with limpid arms, a faceless corps of women fluttering around her.

Makarova in the Kirov’s
Swan Lake
, September 1964
Wayne J. Shilkret, Courtesy DM Archives
Makarova slumps in a chair, biting a thumbnail as she peers at the book held open in her lap. She wears big reading glasses, a black sweater, shiny sweatpants, and pointe shoes.
Makarova in Moscow
Courtesy DM Archives
On the set evoking a ballet studio, Baryshnikov supports Makarova with an extended arm as she balances in attitude front. Neither look to each other, but instead out, as though to their reflections in a mirror.
Mikhail Baryshnikov and Makarova in Jerome Robbins’
Afternoon of a Faun
Nina Alovert, Courtesy DM Archives

Russian-style crowns are held above Karkar and Makarova's heads, in the latter's case. by Mikhail Baryshnikov. The men wear dark, formal suits, Makarova a dress with a frilled collar.

Edward Karkar and Makarova’s wedding, at which Mikhail Baryshnikov was a witness, February 1976
Ted Streshinsky, Courtesy DM Archives
Makarova and Dowell sit shoulder to shoulder, smiling in their evening wear. Makarova's hair is pulled back under one of her signature head coverings, and holds a cigarette on the table in front of her.
Makarova and Sir Anthony Dowell, 1976
Caren Golden, Courtesy DM Archives
Dressed in all black practice clothes, Makarova smiles widely as she balances en pointe with a leg extended front, the opposite arms holding the end of a sweater being pulled taut by her young son.
Makarova with her then-7-year-old-son, Andrei, in 1985
Dina Makarova, Courtesy DM Archives
In a grainy black and white image, Makarova sits in a side split, warm layers over her practice clothes, and appears to listen intently as Kolpakova speaks, sitting on the floor next to her beneath the barre.
Makarova with Irina Kolpakova, circa 1986–89
Nina Alovert, Courtesy DM Archives