I was born on January 31, 1881 in St. Petersburg. My mother was a washerwoman and my father was a reserve soldier whom I never knew. From the time I was a very small child, after I attended a perforamnce of Sleeping Beauty, all I wanted was to become a dancer. Two years later, I entered an elite school for classical dancers. The school and its students were under the protection of the highest leader of the land, who was its benefactor. In return, the school expected the highest degree of physical and mental dedication.
But I was considered frail and thin, and even worse, unattractive. Regardless of these physical barriers, I was exceptionally supple and possessed beautiful arched insteps, critical to ballerinas. My love of the dance was exemplified in each step I danced. My talent soon came to the attention of a ballet master who became my most dedicated mentor.
My debut occurred on September 19, 1899. From the very first, I impressed everyone with my expressive abilities. My first tour began in 1907. After that, I was on tour for most of my career. It is said that I travelled over 400,000 miles and was seen by millions all over the world.
In February 1910, I made her first appearance in America at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Although the benefactor of my ballet company approved these early tours, I was forced to return home in the summer of 1914. I was in Germany enroute to London when war was declared on August 2, 1914. I found myself alone and without the protection of my benefactor.
Afterwards, from this time in my life until my death, I continued to make exhaustive, world-wide tours with my own international company. During the early war years, I was in America. In 1917 I travelled to South America. By 1919 I was in Bahia and Salvador. I returned to America in 1920 and in 1923 I took my company to Japan, China, India, Burma, and Egypt. South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand received me in 1926. I entertained British citizens during 1927-1928.
My signature dances were the Bacchanale and my eerily beautiful The Swan.
My popularity grew from my passion for ballet, my good humor, and self-discipline. When I wasn't dancing, which was a rare occasion, I spent my time at Ivy House in Hampstead, London, where I kept a menagerie of exotic birds and animals - including a pair of pet swans.
Victor Dandré, a fellow exile from my home country, was rumoured to be my husband, and if not my husband, definitely my lover.
After a lifetime of incessant performances, the illness of pleurisy claimed my life in The Hague on January 22, 1931. My last request was to have my Swan costume prepared and to, "Play that last measure softly."
Australia and New Zealand both claim they created the famous desert named in my honor. The Australians claim it originated from Chef Bert Sachse, the chef of Perth's Esplanade Hotel where I had once stayed. It is a sweet dessert made with a base of meringue crust topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits.
12 February 1881 - 23 January 1931