Last of the `Baby Ballerinas' dies

SYDNEY, Australia

Baronova died peacefully in her sleep on June 28, the Australian Ballet said in a statement viewed on its Web site Thursday.

She had lived in the coastal resort town of Byron Bay north of Sydney since retiring from dance in 1946.

"It is a very sad day for the ballet world," David McAllister, artistic director of the Australia Ballet, said. "Irina inspired generations of dancers to aspire to the beauty she created on stage and then in later years she shared so generously her experience."

Baronova came to fame as a 13-year-old after being spotted in Paris by legendary choreographer George Balanchine, who teamed her with two other young Russian-born dancers, Tamara Toumanova and Tatiana Riabouchinska, in 1932.

The three toured the world as the Baby Ballerinas.

The shows by the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo were a hit in the United States, Europe and in Australia, where the dance troupe toured in 1938 and Baronova began her association with the country.

Born in Petrograd, now St. Petersburg, in 1919, Baronova and her family fled to Romania when she was just 18 months old in the bloody aftermath of the communist revolution. She recalled in an 2006 interview with Australia's Nine Network television that her naval officer father had been warned they would be shot by revolutionaries.

Enrolled by her mother in ballet classes in Bucharest, the youngster was initially reluctant, but her talent quickly shone through and developed further when the family moved to Paris. By 1931, she had performed as a soloist at the Paris Opera and the Theater Mogador.

Baronova later moved to the United States, where she appeared with the American Ballet Theater and tried her hand in Hollywood, appearing in two films, "Florian" in 1940 and "Yolanda" in 1943.

She gave up dancing professionally at age 27 when she married agent Cecil Tennant, who reportedly made her retirement a condition of his proposal. Tennant died in 1967, and Baronova returned to dancing as a coach and consultant.

Baronova is survived by two daughters and a son.
Copyright © 2023 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.