Plisetskaya in 2011
Maya Mikhailovna Plisetskaya
20 November 1925
|Died||2 May 2015 (aged 89)|
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Spouse(s)||Rodion Shchedrin (m. 1958-2015; her death)|
|Awards||Full cavalier of the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland"|
|Website||The Plisetskaya-Shchedrin Foundation|
Plisetskaya gained an interest in ballet at a young age and was active during the Soviet period. She has been called by some, such as Nikita Khrushchev, one of the best ballerinas of all time. She was married to composer and pianist Rodion Shchedrin from 1958 until her death.
Plisetskaya was born in Moscow, Russia to Lithuanian Jewish parents. Her mother, Rachel Messerer, was a silent movie actress and her father, Mikhail Plisetski, was a diplomat. She studied at the Bolshoi Theater.
In 1938, her father was arrested and later executed during the Stalinist purges. Her mother was arrested soon after and, with Maya's seven-month-old baby brother, sent to a gulag in Kazakhstan for the next three years. Plisetskaya was taken in by her maternal aunt (a ballerina) until her mother was released in 1941.
For many years she was not allowed to tour outside the Soviet Union. This ban was lifted in 1959 by Nikita Khrushchev.
Able to travel the world as a member of the Bolshoi, her skill as a dancer was widely recognised. It set a high standard for ballerinas in technique and dramatic presence. Khrushchev allowed her to go on the Bolshoi tour in New York and he was immensely satisfied upon reading the reviews of her performances. He embraced her on her return.
Within a few years, she was recognized as “an international superstar” and a continuous “box office hit throughout the world”. The Soviet Union treated her as a favored cultural emissary, as “the dancer who did not defect”. Although she toured extensively during the years that other dancers defected, including Rudolph Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Plisetskaya always returned to Russia.
Plisetskaya explains that for her generation, and her family in particular, defecting was a moral issue. She had once asked her mother why their family didn't leave the Soviet Union when they had the chance, at the time living in Norway. Her mother said “Misha would never have been a traitor”.:239
Plisetskaya was given many awards by the Soviet Union, and by Russia. Of special note were:
- Hero of Socialist Labour (1985)
- Three Orders of Lenin (1967, 1976, 1985)
- Lenin Prize (1964)
- People's Artist of USSR (1959)
- "Maya Plisetskaya biography". RT. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
- Eaton, Katherine Bliss (2004). Daily Life in the Soviet Union. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-31628-7.
- They were sent to ALZHIR camp, a Russian acronym for the Akmolinskii Camp for Wives of Traitors of the Motherland, "enemies of the people" 
- Plisetskaya, Maya (2001). I, Maya Plisetskaya. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08857-4.
- Homans, Jennifer. Apollo’s Angels: a history of ballet, Random House (2010) pp. 383-386
- Plisetskaya and Shchedrin settle in Lithuania, upi.com; accessed 4 May 2015.
- Two greats of world ballet win Spanish Nobels, expatica.com; accessed 4 May 2015.
- "Скончалась балерина Майя Плисецкая" (in Russian). ITAR TASS. 2 May 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2015.