Anatole Vilzak (published 1982)

Dublin Core


Anatole Vilzak (published 1982)


Vilzak talks about learning and dancing the classical ballet repertory in tsarist Russia. The principal works discussed are Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

In the interview clip, Vilzak reminisces about watching dancers perform from the wings as a student and learning through this observation and later discussion with other students. Newman theorizes it was Vilzak's mime training that lent his dancing such authenticity and physicality.

Biographical note:

Born in Vilnius, Lithuania, though some sources say St. Petersberg in 1896, Vilzak graduated from the Imperial Ballet School into the Maryinsky Theatre in 1915. He performed there until he left Russia in 1921. He danced as premier danseur for Sergei Diaghilev's legendary Ballets Russes until 1925 and was a principal dancer with George Balanchine's American Ballet in New York from 1936 to 1937. Vilzak began devoting himself to teaching, when in 1940 he became an instructor at Balanchine's School of American Ballet. Vilznak became one of the most important teachers of the Russian style in America. He passed way in San Francisco on August 15, 1998.


Pratt SILS LIS-665, Barbara Newman

Date Created

May 23, 1979



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Is Part Of

Newman, B. (1982). Striking a balance. Dancers talk about dancing. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Newman, B. (1992). Striking a balance. Dancers talk about dancing. New York: Limelight Editions.




Interviews recorded on cassette by Barbara Newman

Rights Holder

Barbara Newman, Estate of Anatole Vilzak

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Audio Cassette Tape

Digital Format


Digital Master




Bit Rate/Frequency



Barbara Newman


Anatole Vilzak, 1896-1998


New York, NY

Additional content

"Certain questions expire with time. I wanted to talk to someone who, before joining Diaghilev's Ballet Russe, had already established a reputation in the classical repertory that is still danced today. The facts about the Ballet Russe are well known and often cited. What's less often remembered is that the three great Tchaikovsky ballets- Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Nutcracker - were together the cornerstone of that repertory before Diaghilev ever arrived in Paris. I was lucky to find anyone at all whose knowledge and experience matched my curiosity point for point. I was privileged to find Anatole Vilzak, a premier danseur of tsarist Russia" Barbara Newman (1982).




“Anatole Vilzak (published 1982),” Dance Dialogues: Interviews by Barbara Newman, 1979-Present, accessed May 17, 2022,

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