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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mildly interesting biography, 18 Sept. 2007
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This review is from: Imperial Dancer (Paperback)
This is a mildly interesting biography of Mathilde Kschessinska (who was Polish by race); she was intimately connected with the Russia's Imperial family at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. The authour's focus is, as the title suggests, her intimate relationship with a few members of the Romanovs - first, with Tsarevich Nicholas (later Tsar Nicholas II) and two Grand Dukes, both related to the tsar.

Anyone who is interested in Kschessinska as a prima ballerina assoluta may well be disappointed as there are only superficial commentaries on her performances at the Imperial (Mariinsky) Theatre. There is not much description of her artistic pursuit, whereas the author's main interest is obviouly the dancer's amorous relationship.

The authour's portrayal of Kschessinska is sympathetic. However, readers will get an impression that the dancer was a scheming person, who was solely interested in her pursuit of power, influence and wealth rather than her artistic achievement as she used her connection with the Imperial family as a means of her self-promotion.

There are a lot of detailed descriptions of lavish parties with the Imperial family that she attended and expensive houses and jewellery that she was given. In the end, they become a little too tedious to read.

The author mentions a tunnel made underneath the river Neva, connecting the Winter Palace and Kschessinska's large house, later commandeered by the Bolsheviks in 1917 during the Revolution and became their headquarters. (It is in current Petrogradskaya on the northern bank of Neva.) This is a nonsense because making a tunnel under the wide river was surely an impossibility at the beginning of the 20th century as anyone who visited St. Petersburg will realise!

The most interesting part is a chapter about her escape from the Revolution of 1917 when she lost everything that she had accumulated. Later chapters deal with her life as a teacher in Paris and hardship she endured.

If you are interested in this colourful personality and some members of the Romanovs towards the end of the Imperial Russia, the book will prove rewarding. But, if you want to know about Kschessinska's artistic career as a prima ballerina, you will have to look for some historical sources elsewhere.
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