unsung sol

When I was a little girl my mother sent me to ballet classes. I can’t remember whether I lasted a full year or just one term, all I know is my mother yanked me out of ballet and sent me to elocution lessons instead. The rationale being that I had grown too tall to be a ballerina; it wasn’t until years later it dawned on me that it was because I showed a remarkable lack of talent and was always tearing holes in those expensive pink tights.


Still, I remain fascinated by the ballet world and the intriguing people who inhabited it, such as the Great Russian Impresario Sol Hurok whose crowning achievement was to bring the Bolshoi Ballet to New York.


“Impresarios are expected to live and talk big and Hurok plays the role with gusto. Almost every day he lunches at New York’s expensive Pavillon restaurant where between forkfuls of boeuf a la mode, he utters melancholy pronouncements on the state of the world.

Violinist Efram Zimbalist was Sol’s first big time Attraction. Later he signed up Anna Pavlova, Artur Rubinstein, Andres Segovia and many more famous names to be part of Hurok Attractions (agents merely have clients, impresarios have Attractions).

Like any impresario worth his gold topped cane, he has had to deal with crises. In 1922 he heard with horror that one of his stars, Isadora Duncan, had bared her bosom and denounced her Boston audience for false puritanism. He had to race over and explain her combination of eccentricities and talent to the offended mayor before he ran her out of town. He also helped shovel out snowbound ballerinas, returned hotel towels stolen by a basso, built stages on a day’s notice and reconciled a pair of Russian¬†choreographers who were about to wage a pistol duel in Central Park.


It was in 1929 that he first tried to bring the Bolshoi Ballet to America but it took 30 years to make that dream come true. After countless attempts the Russian government agreed but only if he first toured the Moiseyev Dancers, a much less famous troupe. He did so with great success but was stalled again by a demand that he also present the obscure, 53 strong Beryozka Folk Dancers. Only after they proved just as successful was he permitted to present the Bolshoi Ballet at last.

Moiseyev Dancers

After four years I was allowed to stop elocution classes on the proviso I took up Irish dancing instead. Apparently,  neither my height, ineptitude nor torn stockings were any impediment to jigging

and yes, I did wear costumes like these depicted on the cookies found here

Published in: on April 17, 2010 at 7:45 am  Comments (43)  
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