I was fortunate to studied ballet with the late great Russian ballet master Igor Schwezoff in Washington DC and New York City.
Today I found this photograph of one of his early choreographies and the accompanying description quite by chance while looking for a photo of the ballerina Tamara Toumanova. Very few photos of Mr. Schwezoff’s work are known to exist so I was very happy to locate this wonderful picture! This photo was posted on the blog Kurt of Gerolstein as La Lutte Eternelle: a ballet by Schwezoff. The author apparently found it in a box or old news clippings and dance photos and says that, knowing nothing about ballet and caring nothing about it he thinks it may be of interest to somebody else! Thank you Kurt of Gerolstien! It certainly is of interest to me and will be to other people who worked with Igor Schwezoff! And I want to know what else was in that box!
Mr. Schwezoff was born in 1904 in St. Petersberg and trained in the Marinsky Theater School. In 1931 he defected from Siberia through Manchuria to Harbin, China. He then made his way to to Western Europe where he danced with Bronislava Najinska in Amsterdam and ran his own ballet schools in Amsterdam and London. While in Amsterdam he choreographed his initial version of La Lutte Eternelle to Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques. While in London he wrote his biography titled Borzoi describing his early life in Russia and his harrowing escape to the west.
Mr. Schwezoff traveled widely and eventually joined the de Basil Ballets Russes in 1939 as a soloist and choreographer. He restaged his work La Lutte Eternelle for this company during their Australian tour. The Australian cast featured Georges Skibine ( also known as Yura Skibine) in the role of Man, Nina Verchinina as Woman, Tamara Toumanova as Illusion, Sono Osato as Beauty, Marina Svetlova as Truth and Boris Runanine as Will. Other members of the cast were Slava Toumine , Paul Petroff and Oleg Tupine. The cast pictured in the above photo includes Nina Verchinina, Georges ( Yura) Skibine, Slava Toumine , Paul Petroff and Oleg Tupine.
The costumes and scenery were designed by the sisters Kathleen and Florence Martin of Melbourne. The costumes were made by Olga Larose, the company wardrobe mistress and the sets were executed by G. Upward. The press found the production work to be a first rate success which carried through the symbolism of Schwezoff’s choreography. One critic in Melboursne called La Lutte Eternelle a ballet of wholly perfect dancing in which splendid movement is guided by great music. The Schumann score was orchestrated by Anton Dulati, the Hungarian conductor.
The ballet’s theme dealt with man’s progress towards an ideal beyond worldly things explored through allegory. The key roles included Truth, Illusion, Beauty and Will.
La Lutte Eternaelle was well received by both the public and the press in both the initial Amsterdam ballet school production and the professional revised world premiere staged for the de Basil Ballets Russes and premiered in Sydney at the Theatre Royal on the 29th of July in 1940.
Mr. Schwezoff notably performed the role of the Old General in the popular David Lichine ballet Graduation Ball during this 1937 – 1940 Australian tour of the de Basil Ballets Russes. Fortunately some photos of him and other notorious cast members in these performances exist in the records of the Australian Public Library.
If anyone reading this has further information about Igor Schwezoff or photographs of him and his works I would love to be notified as I am trying to complie all the biographical information I can about him. Please post a comment if you know more!
Mr. Schwezoff ultimately worked in major ballet companies all over the world and became one of the most important and influential teachers in New York City. His classes were frequented by many well known professional ballet dancers. He passed away in 1982 at the age of 78.