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Semenova, Tatiana | University of Houston Libraries

Name: Semenova, Tatiana

Historical Note:

Tatiana Semenova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on July 17, 1920. She moved with her family to Paris when she was five. At the age of seven she began studying at the dancing school of Matilda Kchessinska, a legendary Russian ballerina and wife of Grand Duke Andrei of Russia.

Madame Semenova made her stage debut when she was eleven with a Russian opera company formed in London by Sir Thomas Beecham. The following year she began her formal dance career as a member of the Col. Vassili de Basil's famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, touring the United States and South America. In 1937 Semenova joined the Paris Opera Ballet as premiere danseuse starring in stage entertainments with Lucien Boyer, Sascha Guitry, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Trenet.

During World War II, in coordination with the United Service Organizations (USO), Semonova formed a group called the Foxhole Ballet to tour Europe and Africa. While performing in Rome on a bomb damaged stage her leg went through a weak board; she severed the cartilage in her left knee and suffered a compound fracture in her right arm. The accident ended her dancing career.

In early 1946 Semenova returned to America and began her teaching career at the School of Dance Arts, Carnegie Hall, in New York City. Backed by a former USO contact, she formed American Youth Ballet in 1950 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1954, Semonova brought the American Youth Ballet to Houston. The following year, the newly formed Houston Foundation for Ballet invited her to form the Houston Ballet Academy - the precursor to the Houston Ballet. She remained director of the Academy for eleven years. Academy dancers also appeared in selected Houston Grand Opera performances.

In 1966, the Houston Ballet Academy Board of Directors pressed for a professional performing company under a new artistic director. Semonova declined an offer to continue as teacher and advisor. She resigned to form her own company, Ballet of Houston, which debuted in 1968. The company thrived through the middle 1980s. Despite increasing physical problems Semenova continued to teach privately in Houston until her death at the age of 76 on September 24, 1996. She is buried next to her mother, Olga Semenova, in the cemetery of St. Michael Island in Venice, Italy.

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