Inna Zubkovskaya, a major, much loved dancer of Russia's famed Kirov Ballet who helped establish the company's classical stature during its first appearances in the United States and Western Europe 40 years ago, has died.
She was 77 and died Feb. 5 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Renowned for her lyricism and bravura, Zubkovskaya danced the starring role in "Swan Lake" when the Kirov made its American debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 1961.
"The Kirov does not stress stars," Albert Goldberg commented in The Times when the company reached Los Angeles two months later. "But if a dancer like Inna Zubkovskaya belonged to any other company, her name would be emblazoned on the marquee."
Zubkovskaya was born Inna Izraelyeva in Moscow on Nov. 29, 1923. She studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School and graduated in 1941. Less than two months later, with the start of World War II, she was evacuated to the city of Perm, a wartime haven for Soviet artists and arts institutions.
There she joined the Kirov, for which she danced major roles of the classical repertory, including Odette/Odile in "Swan Lake," Nikiya in "La Bayadere," Kitri in "Don Quixote," the Lilac Fairy in "The Sleeping Beauty" and the title role of "La Esmeralda."
In addition, important roles were created for Zubkovskaya in Leonid Jacobson's "Spartacus" (1956) and Yuri Grigorovich's "Legend of Love" (1961).
"She is a flawless dancer," Goldberg wrote in 1961, " . . . the plasticity and fluidity of her dancing, with arm technique to rival that of her legs, were magical. . . . In every respect she is one of the great ones."
Zubkovskaya retired from dancing in 1970 but continued to teach in St. Petersburg until her death. Her honors included the Stalin Prize, awarded in 1951.
She was married to dancer Nikolai Zubkovsky and, after that marriage ended in divorce, to dancer Sviatoslav Kusnetzov.