Dancer. Born in Moscow into a prominent Jewish family. Her father Michael Plisetskiy represented the Soviet Government in Spitsbergen, Norway as the Consul General in Barentsburg and chief of coal mines. On 30 April 1937 he was purged, charged with espionage and executed on 8 January 1938. In early March 1938 her mother the silent film actress Rachel Messerer was arrested and sentenced to 8 years in prison. Maya faced the threat of an orphanage and was adopted by her maternal aunt Sulamith. Her brother Alexander was taken by the family of Rachel's brother Asaf Messerer. She went to school in Spitzbergen, and then studied under the great ballerina of imperial school Elizaveta Gerdt. She first performed at the Bolshoi Theatre when she was eleven. In 1943, at the age of eighteen, she graduated from the choreographic school and joined the Bolshoi Ballet, where she performed until 1990. She spent a very short time in the corps de ballet after graduation and was quickly named a soloist. She was known for the height of her jumps, her extremely flexible back, the technical strength of her dancing, and her charisma. She excelled both in adagio and allegro, which is very unusual in dancers. Despite her acclaim, she was not treated well by the Bolshoi management. She was Jewish in a climate of Soviet anti-Zionist campaigns. Her family had been purged during the Stalinist era and she had a defiant personality. As a result, she was not allowed to tour outside the country for sixteen years after she had become a member of the Bolshoi. In 1958 she received the title of the People's Artist of the USSR. That same year she married the young composer Rodion Shchedrin, whose fame she later shared. Subsequently the travel ban was lifted in 1959 on Khrushchev’s personal intercession, as it became clear to him that striking her from the Bolshoi's participants could have serious consequences for the international tour’s success. Able to travel the world as a member of the Bolshoi, her skill as a dancer changed the world of ballet, setting a higher standard for ballerinas both in terms of technical brilliance and dramatic presence. Khrushchev allowed her to participate in the Bolshoi tour in New York and he was immensely satisfied upon reading the reviews of her performances. Within a few years, she was recognized as an international superstar and a continuous box office hit throughout the world. Although she toured extensively during the same years that other dancers defected, including Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, she always came back and Soviet leaders treated her as a favored cultural emissary, as the dancer who did not defect. After Galina Ulanova left the stage in 1960, Maya Plisetskaya was proclaimed the prima ballerina assoluta of the Bolshoi Theatre. In 1971, her husband Shchedrin wrote a ballet on the same subject, where she would play the leading role. Anna Karenina was also her first attempt at choreography. Other choreographers who created ballets for her include Yury Grigorovich, Roland Petit, Alberto Alonso, and Maurice Béjart with Isadora. She created The Seagull and Lady with a Lapdog. She starred in the 1961 film, The Humpbacked Horse, and appeared as an actress in several films, including the Soviet version of Anna Karenina in 1968. Her own ballet of the same name was filmed in 1974. She worked as the artistic director of the Rome Opera Ballet from 1984 to 1985, then the Spanish National Ballet of Madrid from 1987 to 1989. She retired as a soloist for the Bolshoi at age 65, and on her 70th birthday, she debuted in Maurice Béjart's piece choreographed for her Ave Maya. Since 1994, she has presided over the annual international ballet competitions called Maya. In 1996 she was named President of the Imperial Russian Ballet and danced the Dying Swan, her signature role, at a gala in her honor in St. Petersburg. In 1991 the Gold Medal for Service to the Arts was awarded to her by Spanish King Juan Carlos. In 2005 Spain awarded her the Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts. In 2006 Emperor Akihito of Japan presented her with the Praemium Imperiale, informally considered a Nobel Prize for Art. In 2012 France awarded her a title of the Officer of the Légion d'honneur.
Bio by Tati and Eric Derderian Anderson
Bio courtesy of: Wikipedia