Russian ballet dancer Maya Plisetskaya dies at 89

Maya Plisetskaya in ‘Swan Lake’

Maya Plisetskaya, considered one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century, has died at the age of 89 in Germany.

Plisetskaya – who made her name in her native Russia – danced for half a century and her modern choreography and performances charged with eroticism flouted Soviet convention.

“She died of a severe heart attack. The doctors tried everything, but there was nothing they could do,” said Vladimir Urin, the director of the Bolshoi, after being informed by the ballerina’s husband, Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin, of her death on Saturday.

Urin said he had seen Plisetskaya a few weeks ago and “she was in good health and making jokes”.

“Not just Russia but the entire world knew that Maya Plisetskaya was the symbol of Russian ballet in the 20th century,” he added.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, sent his condolences to her family.

Born in Moscow on November 20, 1925, Plisetskaya was deprived of her parents early in life. Her engineer father was shot under Stalin’s regime in 1938 for being “an enemy of the people” and her actress mother was accused of being a traitor and sent to a labour camp in Kazakhstan.

Plisetskaya was taken in by her aunt and uncle. She joined the Bolshoi in 1943. During 50 years as a performer – remaining at the Bolshoi well beyond the normal age limit – she captivated audiences with the purity of her performances and dazzling looks that she retained into old age…