On 8 January 1910 a baby girl, Galina — Galina Sergeyevna Ulanova — was born in Petersburg to a family of Mariinsky Theatre ballet dancers.
1919 — Ulanova becomes a pupil at the Mariinsky Theatre Choreographic College, on Rossi Street:
At the age of 8 I enrolled at the Choreographic College, later on I joined the theatre…I can’t say I was happy when I was sent to the college: I didn’t want to dance. My parents — Maria Fedyorovna Romanova and Sergei Nicolayevich Ulanov — were ballet dancers: I had seen at firsthand just how difficult a profes sion it was. In the 20’s, times were hard — general chaos, starvation, cold. The College had a boarding school, my parents put me there, at home there was no one to leave me with… Later on, my father told me that the stagehands had asked him why he had allowed his daughter to dance, her legs are so thin, they will break, they said…
For 6 years I trained in my mother’s class, and for the last 3 years — with Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova.
Mother was severe judge and good friend to me and all her pupils. My father never taught me to dance. But his comments made in passing immediately toor root in me and they helped me always to keep a constant check on what I was doing…Vaganova’s lessons were brilliant and inventive. She had an inexhaustible imagination which she put to good use in the for complex and totally unexpected movements barely detectable to the eye and which only a well trained body could perform. What my parents instilled in me above all from very early childhood was a sense of duty! Like all children,I could be disobedient, capricious and much else, but subconsciously I was always aware I must do my duty!
1928 — she finishes her ballet school training. From this time on, Ulanova begins to keep a diary in a maths ‘exercise-book in which she scrupulously lists ballets and roles. Her comments are rare and to the point:
1928.16 may graduation concert. Chopiniana, Harleguinade, Nutcracker divertissement.
September — Ulanova joins the Leningrad Theatre of Opera and Ballet as soloist.
By the time I finished school, I was already managing to do some things well, I was noticed and ended up among the best pupils. There were not many students in our graduation year, but only theree of us were taken on at the Theatre.
21 October – her first solo part – Princess Florine in Sleeping Beauty, by September of the following year she is already dancing Princess Aurora.
1929 – Fyodor Lopukhov, the artistic director of the Ballet Company, offers Ulanova the role of Odette-Odile in Svan Lake. Gerdt, previous interpreter of the role, “showed me the movements, and Lopukhov took me through the music… was fased by the following task… I had to impart to the human body the movements of a bird… lean how to listen to Tchaikovsky’s marvelous music, how to dream on stage, live in thrall to a dream…Dancing the snow-white swan, a bewitched, sweet-natured girl or trying to create the black, earth-bound image of her rival, I was already free of the novice’s timidity… From January 1929 the Swan became a staple in my repertoire, and I danced the ballet fairly often. I felt my dance was in harmony with the music, linked to it… the dance movements began to character’s inner world».
Dancing for many years in different versions of the ballet, and at different theatres, Ulanova transformed from a professional ballerina with a good classical schooling, info a unique artistic personality, the idol of several generations of spectators.
1930 – October, choreographers Vasily Vaynonen, Leonid Yacobson, V.Chesnacov present the ballet The Golden Age to music by Dmitri Shostacovich. Ulanova recalls:
During the first years of my career, I danced whatever I was given: I didn’t know yet which were my roles, and which were not. I worked, and any work, even if it doesn’t quite come off, still brings results… I was offered various roles – lyrical, experimental, and even acrobatic as, for instance, in The Golden Age. In the latter ballet I was a komsomol (abbr. for “Young Communist League” – youth organization – tr.n.)member, a sportswoman, I danced with partners who were also sportsmen.
From the exercise-book, we learn who were her partners
October. 26th. The Golden Age, komsomol member. Chabukiani, Sergeyev, Kaplan, Kavakin.
This was an experimental ballet produced by thee choreographers. At that time, experiments were conducted in different directions, many wishet to depart from the pure classics… The youthful and impetuous atmosphere of the rehearsals carried over into the perfomances which bubbled with sporting fervor. Year two since my graduation from Leningrad Ballet School… I made the acquaintance of the Shostakovich family – and his mother, and sister who gave piano lessons at our ballet school. And Dmitri Dmitrievich himself taught music theory there one winter.
1931-1934 – Ulanova is given the lead roles in the following ballets:
Raymonda Alexander Glazunov – Title role;
Snow Maiden Edvard Grieg – Solveig;
Giselle – Title role;
Chopiniana to music by Frederic Chopin – Waltz and Mazurka;
The Humpbacked Horse Cesare Pugni – Tsar-Maiden.