January 25, 2009

Former Soviet ballerina Kovach dead at 77

Ballerina Nora Kovach, who defected from the Soviet bloc in the 1950s, has died in Miami at the age of 77, her husband says.

Steve Farago said the Hungarian ballerina died Jan. 18 of unspecified causes after suffering from a short illness, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Kovach was joined in her 1953 defection from East Berlin by fellow Budapest State Opera Ballet star Istvan Rabovsky.

Impresario Paul Szilard wrote in his memoir, Under My Wings, that the dancing pair drew international fame for fleeing to West Berlin while in East Berlin for a performance.

Because they disappeared during a performance, it was regarded as a huge scandal, Szilard said.

Kovach and Rabovsky followed up their defection by taking part in major dancing companies in Europe, Japan, Latin American and the United States.

Kovach also opened a ballet school in Plainview, N.Y., in 1969, the Times said.

The newspaper said Kovach is survived by Farago, a brother and two stepchildren.