#tbt: How British Ballerina Dame Alicia Markova Stayed Humble

February 28, 2018

The March 1958 issue of Dance Magazine included coverage of the previous year’s Dance Magazine Awards, one of which went to Dame Alicia Markova.

Markova danced the title role in the first British production of Giselle. Photo by Walter E. Owens, Courtesy DM Archives

The British ballerina began her career with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and went on to be a founding member of Rambert Dance Company, The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre before co-founding English National Ballet in 1950.

Sir Frederick Ashton looks on as Dame Ninette de Valois embraces Markova after a performance. Photo by Paul Wilson, Courtesy DM Archives

Introducing Markova at the award presentation, Agnes de Mille related this anecdote: “I remember one occasion where the incredible, absolute statement was made that she is probably the greatest single ballerina who has ever danced.

A dresser helps Markova into wool stockings backstage, 1957. Photo by Wide World Photo, Courtesy DM Archives

“I saw her the day afterward, and when I got my jaw back to where I could talk, I said, ‘Alicia, how can you stand this?’ She said, ‘I don’t pay any attention to it, I just go and do my pliés.’ ”

Markova received a DBE (making her a “Dame”) in 1963. Photo by Constance Hope, Courtesy DM Archives