When Ekaterina Maximova almost never walked again

In 1975, Ekaterina Maximova was already one of the greatest ballerinas dancing. Prodigy at school, Katya, as she was called by friends, inspired talents such as choreographer Yuri Grigorovich, who picked her even as a fresh-out-of-school dancer to create for her the ballet The Stone Flower. She danced it with Vladimir Vasiliev, who would become her partner on and off stage.

After Stone Flower, The Nutcracker, and others, in 1968 Grigorovich created for the two the masterpiece Spartacus, which became an instant hit. In 1975, the ballerina was preparing to film Spartacus, with Vasiliev. They were at their peak. But destiny planned otherwise.

During rehearsals, Katya fell hard and was taken to the hospital. At first, it was seen as a mild bruise and she was back on the set within a day. As they were already shooting, the pain became unbearable. She was hospitalized again, but this time it was different. The feedback wasn’t a good one. She had injured her spine seriously. On the bed where she couldn’t move she’s heard from the doctors that she would not be able to have children anymore, not even – possibly – walk again.

News as such is heartbreaking to anyone, but, for a dancer, it’s a death sentence. Katya would not have it. Determined to challenge the perspective, ad with the support of Vasiliev, whom she married in April 1961, she immediately began her treatment. It was painful and complicated, but she succeeded. Slowly she recuperated her moves and the following year, 1976, she was back on the stage dancing Giselle.

The following years saw the dancer having other injuries, such as in 1978, when she was unable to finish the ballet The Nutcracker, dancing only the first act. Still, she danced until her retirement, in the 1990s.

Born on February 1, 1939, Ekaterina Maximova began taking ballet classes when she was 10 years old. She was soon spotted as a star so there are plenty of videos of her dancing.

It was at the Bolshoi Ballet School that she met Vladimir Vasiliev when they had 10 and 11. As she claimed, they were close friends at first, it was not love at first sight. As they grew older, their friendship developed to love and they got married in 1961. The marriage faced a bit of pressure due to Vasiliev’s appeal to other women (this was told by Katya in an interview) but they overcame the challenge and found balance in their union when they realized, as she said, that they needed each other. He never left her side at the hospital and throughout their careers, they were always together. So I disagree with her, it was a great love story.

Ekaterina Maximova was personally coached by the great  Galina Ulanova, who taught her roles as Giselle and Juliet, amongst many others.

Although strong on stage, off stage Katya also dealt with depression. Going through the painful recovery certainly didn’t add laughter. But she was brave.

Retirement came in the early 1990s, and Katya became a coach. In 2009, as Vasiliev was overseas, Katya was coaching the new production of Swan Lake. She spent her day rehearsing and went home to rest. She was due back on the following day. She never did, though. As she was late for rehearsal, the theatre called her mother (still alive, then) and she went personally to see what was going on. She found Katya’s body on the bed, she passed in her sleep due to a heart failure. She was 70 years old.

Ekaterina Maximova‘s sudden death left a heartbreak for her friends and fans. She was one of the greatest, ever. Her strength and dedication were inspiring. She said she felt most alive when she was dancing. Thankfully she never gave it up.

Remember her dance


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