December 20, 2008

Russian ballet star Lepeshinskaya dies

Olga Lepeshinskaya, who danced with Russia's Bolshoi Ballet for 30 years after becoming a star at 18, died Saturday. She was 92.

The Culture Ministry announced that Lepeshinskaya will lie in state at the Bolshoi Theater before her burial, probably Tuesday, Itar-Tass reported.

Lepeshinskaya's active career as a dancer occurred during the Soviet era. She joined the Bolshoi in 1933 after graduating from the Moscow Choreographic School.

She was a favorite of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and was rumored to be his mistress. During World War II, she was a member of the Bolshoi Front Brigade, which performed for soldiers near the front lines and in military hospitals, and she was featured in a 1941 documentary, Concert to the Front.

Lepeshinskaya was awarded the Stalin Prize four times and the title People's Artist of the U.S.S.R. in 1951.

She was married to Leonid Roikhman, a general with Soviet intelligence, who died in a prison camp after being arrested in the early 1950s.

Lepeshinskaya's great roles included both comic and dramatic roles in the classical repertory. She was the first to dance the role of Kitry in the Leningrad Kirov's production of Don Quixote.