Olga Spessivtseva – new light on her tragic life

Of all the 20th century ballerinas, the Russian dancer, Olga Spessivtseva intrigues and interests me the most.

She followed in the path of Anna Pavlova, yet she was less well known, despite her superior technique.

I began to research her life a decade ago, and have gradually been piecing together her story, based on manuscripts, correspondence, articles for many specialist publications, and books, as well as a collection of photographs in the State Library of New South Wales, some of which are in the Vintage collection of this website’s galleries.

Two years ago, I read a collection of her correspondence in the library of the Palais Garnier in Paris, including letters written to her when she toured Australia in 1934 as a member of the Dandre-Levitoff company.

Anton Dolin, Dale Fern and others have written of her mental illness that led to her suddenly quitting that tour.

Yet it was only recently that I read her diary entries in a biography published in Russia in 2009 and written by Elena Fedosova, a curator of the St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.

The book is in Russian but the long biographical introduction is in both Russian and English.

This book, titled simply Olga Spessivtseva, was available in London during the recent Diaghilev exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The full article is now posted in the Research pages of dancelines.

As the work is copyright, no element may be reproduced without my permission. Please contact me with any queries.


  1. Posted May 12, 2011 at 2:01 am | Permalink

    Valerie, the article is so detailed and heartbreakingly lovely. Sydney in the 30’s before our eyes! What a film or a book it would make. I wonder if she stayed in the Hotel Australia? Congratulations on all your research here.

  2. valerie
    Posted May 12, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Thank you Robert! I’m not sure of the hotel but it must have been very close to the Theatre Royal. Those State Library images of Olga and her company are treasures.

  3. Posted January 27, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Hi Valerie

    I just wondered where this doll is now and how you came about his photograph of it? Did you photograph it?
    How big is the doll? When and where did she make it ?
    Sorry there so many questions, I’m fascinated by it.!

  4. valerie
    Posted January 29, 2014 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Suzannne, the dolls were made by Spessivtseva when she lived in New York State in the late 1960s/early 70s. They are in the Spessivtseva collection donated by Dale Fern to the New York Public Library. The photos are in the biography of Spessivtseva written by Elena Fedosova, a curator of the St. Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music, and published in 2009. The book is referenced in my post on dancelines titled ‘Olga Spessivtseva – new light on her tragic life’.
    Judging from the photos in the book the female doll is about 17cm in height.

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A doll made by Spessivtseva

A doll made by Spessivtseva