(Eleonora Goldman’s article appeared on Russia Beyond, 5/6.)
Maya Plisetskaya danced until 70!

Maya Plisetskaya danced until 70!

Vasily Malyshev, Vladimir Vyatkin/Sputnik

Maya Plisetskaya, Galina Ulanova, Ekaterina Maximova—even after retiring, these three outstanding ballet dancers continued to amaze everyone with their regal posture, chiseled figures and enviable vitality. What were their secrets to staying young?

Maya Plisetskaya: “No need for dieting”

Maya Plisetskaya during rehearsal in Colon Theater, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1976.

Maya Plisetskaya (1925-2015) is the author of a popular catchphrase: “One should eat less.” Legend has it that this was her standard reply to never-ending questions about how she managed to keep in such an excellent shape. In fact, what she meant was that ballet dancers burn so much energy on stage and during rehearsals that they do not have to worry about dieting. “Ballet dancers do not have to stick to a diet because they work out a lot, everything is used up, and there is simply no time to get fat,” she used to say. “When you feel that you need to [lose some weight] before some performance, that you have gained some extra weight, you just need to eat a bit less.”

Famously, Plisetskaya was fond of beer and herring and, as far as she was concerned, the best dish in the world was a slice of ordinary bread with butter.

At the same time, she always emphasized that being a successful ballerina required a lot of hard work. “All my life I regularly go to class, whether I want to or not doesn’t matter.” 

As for the secret behind her trademark “swan-like” arm movements and posture, Plisetskaya said she learned these from observing birds in the zoo. 

She performed on stage till she was 70.

Galina Ulanova: “Nature gives me strength”

Choreography teacher Galina Ulanova (left) and dancer Maya Plisetskaya (right) rehearsing, 1969.

Galina Ulanova (1910-1998) was not only a famous ballerina, but also a legendary instructor who taught choreography to generations of young dancers, including Plisetskaya.

She was a very private person, and in rare interviews she said that she drew strength from outdoor activities. One of her favorite pursuits was kayaking. “I can row for hours. Many were surprised that I did not get tired and knew how to control the boat. I would take my kayak far, far away, steer it into tall reeds, lie down in the boat and look at the sky for a long time…Nature is what gives me strength.” 

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