Tamara Karsavina was born on 10 March 1885 in St. Petersburg, Russia to Platon Konstantinovich Karsavin and his wife, Anna Iosifovna. Her father was a principal dancer with the Imperial Ballet and an instructor at the Imperial Ballet School. Because of an embittering experience with his former teacher, Marius Petipa, Platon at first refused to allow Tamara to study ballet. But her mother disagreed.
Anna arranged for Tamara to take lessons with a retired family friend without telling her father. When Platon found out rather than being angry, he became her primary teacher. In 1894, Tamara passed the examinations required to enter the Imperial School from which she graduated in 1902.
After graduation, Tamara rose quickly through the ranks becoming a leading ballerina with the Imperial Ballet. About 10 years later, she began to travel to Paris to perform with the Ballets Russes. Some of her most famous roles were Lise in La Fille Mal Gardée, Medora in Le Corsaire, and the Tsar Maiden in The Little Humpbacked Horse, and others especially in the ballets of Mikhail Fokine, including the title role in The Firebird.
At the age of 19, Tamara rejected a marriage proposal from Fokine, but she later married a civil servant, Vasili Vasilievich Mukhin. The marriage ended in 1917 after 10 years. One year later, she married Henry James Bruce, a British diplomat, and had one son, Nikita.
Karsavina left Russia in 1919, after the revolution, settled and continued to perform with the Ballets Russes. In her later years, she moved to Hampstead, England, became an instructor and helped to revive many of the roles she was famous for.
Find out what else happened on March 10 in Women’s History.