Mia Slavenska

Mia Čorak

Mia Slavenska (February 20, 1916 – October 5, 2002), birth name Mia Čorak, was a Croatian-born American prima ballerina. She formed the Slavenska Ballette Variante and, later, the Theatre Ballette. In 1954, she became the prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.

Personal life

Mia Slavenska was born in what was Brod na Savi in Austria-Hungary (presently Croatia). Born as Mia Čorak, she changed the name soon after permanently leaving the country in 1937. She married Kurt Neumann, an Austrian-born actor, in 1946. They had one daughter, Maria. Slavenska died in a California retirement home on October 5, 2002.

Ballet career

A dancer since the age of four, she studied in Zagreb under Josephine Weiss and made her debut in Baranović's ballet Licitarsko srce in 1924, at what is today the Croatian National Theatre. She became the prima ballerina of the Zagreb Opera at the age of 17. At the 1936 Berlin dance Olympics, coinciding with the Olympic games, she won the choreography and dance award. She left Zagreb for Vienna, where she danced under L. Dubois, G. Krauss and L. von Weiden; and Paris under Lubov Egorova, Mathilde Kschessinska and Olga Preobrajenska.

For many years she was the leading ballerina of the famous Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and with whom she moved to U.S. in the outset of the World War II. In France she started working on film. After appearing in Jean Benoit-Levy's film Ballerina (1937) and promoting it in the U.S., she remained there as a teacher and dancer. She became an American citizen in 1947.

Mia Slavenska

Her own company, Ballet Variante, was formed in 1944 in Hollywood. Her greatest roles she achieved with the Slavenska Franklin Ballet Company that she founded with Frederic Franklin in 1950. One of her most highly regarded roles was as a strongly dramatic Blanche DuBois in Valerie Bettis' modern choreography of A Streetcar Named Desire, premiered in Her Majesty's Theatre in Montreal in 1952. She became the prima ballerina of the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1954 – 55. She opened a ballet studio in New York in 1960, then taught at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) from 1969 to 1983 and concurrently at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) from 1970-83.

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