Raisa Struchkova was a leading ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet from the 1950s until her retirement from
the stage in 1978. Admired for her strong academic schooling as much as for her dramatic gifts,
with a bent for comedy, Struchkova was in the Soviet era with Olga Lepeshinskaya and Maya Plisetskaya
one of the first products of the Moscow School able to rival the Leningrad graduates.
In many ways, after enjoying much exposure during the first Bolshoi Ballet tours in
the West in the late fifties, she became the epitome of the Soviet dance-theatre. She continued
a distinguished career at the Bolshoi by coaching younger dancers in the company,
among others Ekaterina Maximova, Nina Ananiashvili, and more recently Anastasia Goriacheva.
Maximova herself admitted that without Raisa Struchkova she would have left the stage ten years earlier.
Born in Moscow on October 5, 1925, Raisa Stepanovna Struchkova
studied at the Moscow Choreographic School under the great Elizaveta Gerdt (who also
formed Alla Shelest, Maya Plisetskaya and Ekaterina Maximova). Gerdt imparted her
Petersburg classicism to her pupil, whom already attracted attention during school
performances by her grace and elegance. Upon graduation in 1944 Struchkova joined the Bolshoi Ballet.
Her breakthrough at the Bolshoi came in the late forties with her original portrayals of
(1947) and Vainonen's Parasha in The Bronze Horseman
emphasizing simplicity and gentleness in the characters. Following leading roles in
the great classics (Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle
, Don Quixote
as well as in more contemporary creations (Romeo and Juliet, The Flames of Paris, The Red Poppy, The Stone Flower, Laurencia
confirmed her as an extremely versatile ballerina. As
Marina Semyonova stated: "I do not recall
Struchkova ever making a mistake in dancing her role or feigning sincerity on the stage. This is
perhaps what matters most in Struchkova as an actress; her genuine sincerity. This is the essence
of her art".
Struchkova's career is inseparably linked with that of her classmate,
then husband and frequent dancing partner Alexander Lapauri (1926-1975). Together
they appeared in several exciting virtuoso, near acrobatic concert numbers like the Moszkowski Waltz
, the latter choreographed by Lapauri, which thrilled audiences everywhere
and went on to shape for a large part the image of the Bolshoi style in the West. Lapauri moreover
choreographed ballets (with Olga Tarasova) like Tale of the Woods
(1961) or, more successfully, Lieutenant Kije
(1963). The satirical Lieutenant Kije
, set to music by Prokofiev, admirably highlighted Struchkova's gift
for comedy, a side of her talent which was, according to many, regretfully ignored at the Bolshoi.
Raisa Struchkova was named People's Artist of the USSR in 1959.
She was a laureate of the World Festival of Youth and Students in Prague (1947),
Budapest (1949), and Berlin (1951). Since 1962 she has been teaching at the Faculty
of Choreography of the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts-GITIS in Moscow (professor since 1978). From
1981 to 1995 she was editor-in-chief of the ballet magazine "Sovietsky Balet" in Moscow (now called
In 1995 she became artistic director of the chair of Choreography at the GITIS.
Raisa Struchkova died in Moscow on May 2, 2005, at the age of 79.
Her repertory included: (unless otherwise noted, all with the Bolshoi Ballet)
- title role (student's performance) in The Little Stork (Popko, Pospekhin, Radunsky) (1937)
- Little Red Riding Hood in The Sleeping Beauty (Messerer, Chekrygin after Petipa) (1944)
- Bell dancer in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (Zakharov) (1945)
- Spring in Cinderella (Zakharov) (1945)
- Three Oranges in Cinderella (Zakharov) (1945)
- Prelude in Chopiniana (Fokine) (1946)
- Lise in Vain precautions (La Fille mal gardée) (Gorsky) (1946)
- title role in Cinderella (Zakharov)(1947)
- Olya in The Little Stork (Popko, Pospekhin, Radunsky) (1948)
- Pas de trois in Swan Lake (Gorsky, Messerer) (1948)
- Pearl in The Little Humpbacked Horse (Gorsky after Saint-Léon) (1948)
- Maria in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (Zakharov) (1948)
- Parasha in The Bronze Horseman (Zakharov) (1949)
- Dawn in Coppelia (Gorsky) (1949)
- Jeanne in The Flames of Paris (Vainonen) (1950)
- Odette/Odile in Swan Lake (Gorsky, Messerer) (1951)
- Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty (Petipa, staged by Gabovich, Messerer) (1952)
- Tao-Hoa in The Red Poppy(Zakharov) (1952)
- Juliet in Romeo and Juliet (Lavrovsky) (1953)
- Katerina in The Stone Flower (Grigorovich) (1954)
- title role in Fadetta (Lavrovsky) (1955)
- title role in Giselle (Petipa after Coralli, Perrot, staged by Lavrovsky) (1955)
- Pascuale in Laurencia (Chabukiani) (1956)
- title role (cr) in Gayané (Vainonen) (1957)
- title role in Mirandolina (Vainonen) (1958)
- Kitri in Don Quixote (Gorsky) (1959)
- Tamara (cr) in Pages from a Life (Lavrovsky) (1961)
- Mavka (cr) in Tale of the Woods (Tarasova, Lapauri) (1961)
- Lady-in-Waiting (cr) in Lieutenant Kije (Tarasova, Lapauri) (1963)
- Leili (cr) in Leili and Medzhnun (Goleizovsky) (1964)
- Etude (Lapauri)
- Waltz (Lapauri)
- Bacchante in Walpurgis Night (Lavrovsky)
- Nocturne (Jakobson)
- Gavotte (Vainonen)
- Moszkovsky Waltz (Vainonen)
Sources and further reading
- Cinderella (or The Crystal Shoe) (1960)
- Lieutenant Kije (1969)
- I Am Your Name (Tarasova, Lapauri) (1970)
Copyright © 2003-2005
- G. Belyaeva-Chelombitko. Raisa Struchkova.
- A. Demidov. The Russian Ballet. Past and Present. London, 1978.
- I. Gruzdeva. Raisa Struchkova, in: International Dictionary of Ballet, volume II, 1993.
- N. Roslavleva. Era of the Russian Ballet. London, 1966.
- Y. Slonimsky. The Bolshoi Ballet. Notes. Moscow, 1963.
Text of Raisa Struchkova Copyright © 2003-2005 Marc Haegeman. All rights reserved.