Paula Tennyson (1938–2012)

March 8, 2012

Former Ballet Russe dancer Paula Tennyson (Hoffmann) passed away at her home in Philadelphia in January. A Houston, Texas native, Tennyson began her ballet training under Alexander Kotchetovsky and then with Nikita Talin, when her family moved to Dallas. Further training took place in Tulsa, under June Runyon. At the tender age of 14, she became a member of the Slavenska-Franklin Ballet Company, doing two tours with the budding company. Three years later, after touring with American Ballet Theater (then called Ballet Theatre), she joined the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1956. She quickly ascended the ranks to first soloist, and danced with the company until 1962, the year of its final season.

Tennyson received favorable reviews for her Swan Queen in the company’s one-act Swan Lake. Critic Dean Wallace wrote: “To state it simply, Miss Tennyson actually resembled the graceful, mystical bird she was playing. Most ballerinas look like ballerinas trying to look like swans.” He compared her “jeweled movements” favorably to those of the the better known Nina Novak.



Tennyson became a faculty member for the Virginia Ballet Company for more than 30 years. She staged classical ballets there like Giselle and Chopiniana while also making guest appearances onstage and in television. —Rachel Rizzuto


Clockwise from top: Tennyson in (likely)
Raymonda, Swan Lake, and Gaîte Parisienne. All photos courtesy Kira Hoffman.