Ekaterina Maximova, famous Russian ballerina and teacher

Ekaterina Maximova and her husband, Vladimir Vasiliev, starred for many years in the Bolshoi Theater. Ekaterina Maximova and her husband, Vladimir Vasiliev, starred for many years in the Bolshoi Theater. (The Bolshoi Theater Archive via AP)
By Lynn Berry
Associated Press / April 29, 2009
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MOSCOW - Legendary Russian ballerina Ekaterina Maximova, who graced the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre for 30 years, died yesterday. She was 70.

The Bolshoi said that Ms. Maximova died at home and that no cause of death was immediately determined. She had been working as a ballet coach and was not known to have been in ill health.

Ballet directors and President Dmitry Medvedev praised Ms. Maximova's work as an artist and a teacher of young ballerinas and mourned her death as a great loss to Russia.

Ms. Maximova's dancing career at the Bolshoi spanned three decades, from her debut as Masha in "The Nutcracker" in 1958 until 1988.

Called "Ekaterina the Great" for her impeccable technique and versatility, she danced most of the major female roles of classical ballet and also experimented with avant-garde dance.

Her partner on the stage and in life was her husband, Vladimir Vasiliev, who following his dancing career served for five years as artistic director of the Bolshoi.

"This is an irretrievable loss," current artistic director Yuri Burlaka told reporters in the theater's atrium. "All Russians will mourn and remember this great ballerina."

Bolshoi ballet master Boris Akimov said he was shaken by the death of Ms. Maximova, who had participated in a meeting of the troupe's ballet coaches Sunday.

"She was full of energy and enthusiasm," Akimov said, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. "She was happy and active and made many serious, sensible artistic suggestions. And in the evening she was at her beloved ballet 'Spartacus,' where for many years she shone in the main female role."

Medvedev sent his condolences to Ms. Maximova's family, friends, and co-workers.

"You lost someone near and dear, but Russian art has lost a great ballerina, whose rare multifaceted talent is rightfully deemed to belong to world culture," Medvedev wrote in a telegram, the Kremlin said. "With her brilliant dancing, astonishing grace, and beauty, she literally charmed audiences."

Ms. Maximova leaves her husband and mother.