Anna Pavlova Gymnast, Facts & Quotes

The Anna Pavlova Gymnast and Ballerina story encompasses the truth of determination, vision and not listening to your peers but your heart.

Anna was born premature and classic ballet did not come easy due to her due to stature. She had thin ankles, arched feet and long limbs compared to the ideal ballerina at the time.

Despite her physical differences to the expected norm, Anna had a vision and a passion for ballet. She would practice relentlessly and used her wisdom to find the best tutors at the time to exponentially speed up her progress.

Rare footage of the only known recording of Anna talking to her swans.

13 Interesting Anna Pavlova Facts

There have been many great ballerinas in the history of the world, but one of the greatest and most influential was Anna. Here are thirteen fascinating facts about the life of this pioneering and legendary dancer. 

  1. Anna was born on the 12th of February 1881 in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was the daughter of Lyubov Feodorovna a laundry women and got her name from her step father who is believed to have adopted her when she was about 3 years old. 
  2. The identity of Anna's real father is unknown. She never knew him and it is believed to have potentially been a young Jewish soldier and businessman named Lazar Poliakoff.
  3. From a very young age Anna was interested in dance and had an active imagination and a love of fantasy, which helped draw her into the creative world of ballet. Anna was quoted as a little girl saying "I always wanted to dance; from my youngest years...Thus I built castles in the air out of my hopes and dreams."
  4. When Anna was 8 years old, she saw her first ballet performance, Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theatre and fell in love. From that moment on she vowed to become a dancer herself someday. Her mother supported her daughter’s dream and did everything she could to help her achieve it.
  5. A few years later at age 10, she applied and was accepted into the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet School, directed by the famous Marius Petipa after passing the entry exam with flying colors.
  6. One thing Anna's teachers agreed on that made her such an incredible dancer was her intuition and awareness that her talent alone wouldn't be able to bring about the successful career she was striving for. It was her relentless work ethic and wisdom to search out the best of coaches that would eventually lead to her success.
  7. At age 18, she graduated from the St. Petersburg school of ballet and started a shift to prima ballerina.
  8. On the 19th of September 1899 she had her debut performance in the ballet La Fille Mal Gardee.
  9. One of Anna's proudest moments and highlights from her career was being named a prima ballerina just 7 years after starting. A prima ballerina is the title of the head dancer of a dance company. It is a very coveted position that many dancers strive for!
  10. Many say that her best performance was as the leading role in the ballet The Dying Swan. In this performance, she conveyed to the audience the ballet’s message about fragility, passion and preciousness of life.
  11. Another big highlight from her career was that she got to tour the world sharing her art with others, including coming to New Zealand and Australia in 1926.
  12. In 1911 she formed her own ballet company, travelling the world sharing her collected talent with many who were fortunate enough to watch her perform. Anna thoroughly enjoyed this progression as it allowed her full creative control over the performances and she even choreographed her own roles.
  13. Anna died in 1931 at the young age of 50 due to pneumonia. On her deathbed, she famously asked if she could see her dying swan costume one last time.
  14. The legacy of Anna still lives on through the many dance schools, societies, and companies that were established in her honor and the countless generations of dancers she inspired.

Anna Pavlova New Zealand 1926

Anna Pavlova Gymnast in New Zealand


In the above photo legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova poses with a flock of sheep during her visit down-under to New Zealand in 1926. She came with a full entourage which included a 50-strong dance troupe and a 22-member orchestra. She enthralled audiences all across New Zealand,  performing in Auckland, Whanganui, Napier, Hastings, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Timaru. She completed an exhaustive marathon of 38 shows in 39 days.

Anna Pavlova Dessert

Anna Pavlova Dessert Cake


There was a dessert famously named after Anna call "Pavlova".

Which for a long time has been fought over between mainly New Zealand and Australia.

For many years the Australasian nations battled each other over the rights of creation and invention.

Even the Oxford dictionary got involved declaring New Zealand as the forefather of the famous cake. However it was not until a culinary couple decided to take matters into their own hands and dug deep into the history to try and resolve it once and for all. What they found shocked everyone. What was thought to be a cake originating for the deep south of Australasia was in fact much older than previously thought.

The couple researching it Dr Andrew Paul Wood, a New Zealander, and Annabelle Utrecht, an Australian, traced the origins of the Pavlova dish for two years.

"They can "categorically state" the modern pavlova began life as a German torte, eventually travelling to the US where it evolved into its final form."

"The idea that it was invented in New Zealand or even Australia is a total fiction, as is the notion that the first pavlova desserts are of Antipodean origin," Wood says.

"The first recipe for a pavlova dessert is not the 1926 Davis Gelatine jelly.  It is the 1911 'Strawberries Pavlova' recipe and this dessert is a dish on the move."

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Anna's 1907 The Dying Swan Performance

Anna Pavlova Death and Legacy

In 1930, when Pavlova was 50 years old, her 30-year dance career had come to physically wear on her. She decided to take a Christmas vacation after wrapping up a particularly arduous tour in England. At the end of her vacation, she boarded a train back to The Hague, where she planned to resume dancing. On its way from Cannes to Paris, the train was in an accident. Although Pavlova was unharmed in the accident, she was forced to wait out the delay outside on the train platform for 12 hours.

It was a snowy evening, and Pavlova was only wearing only a thin jacket and flimsy silk pajamas. Once in Holland, within days of the accident, she developed double pneumonia and her illness quickly worsened. On her deathbed, Pavlova, passionate about dance until her final breath, asked to see her swan costume one last time. She died in The Hague, Netherlands, in the wee hours of the morning, on January 23, 1931. Her ashes were interred at Golders Green Cemetery, near the Ivy House where she had lived with her manager and husband in London, England.

Pavlova was one of the most celebrated and influential ballet dancers of her time. Her passion and grace are captured in striking photographic portraits. Her legacy lives on through dance schools, societies and companies established in her honor, and perhaps most powerfully, in the future generations of dancers she inspired.

Top 3 Anna Pavlova Quotes

Whats your favorite Anna Pavlova Quote? During our research we found Anna to be a very wise and inspiring women and artist. Our favorite Anna Pavlova Quote was "No one can arrive from being talented alone. God, gives talent, work transforms talent into genius" it couldn't be more true.

Anna Pavlova Facts
Anna Pavlova QuotesAnna Pavlova Famous Quotes
If you enjoyed this post about Anna Pavlova facts and history and want to discover more about the famous dessert that was named after her click here to view our other page covering all the current top recipes and everything you need to know about 👉 Pavlova