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Irina Baronova (handing on the baton)
, 2007

by Jenny Sages

oil, pigment and encaustic on composition board (support: 121.5 cm x 136 cm)

Irina Baronova (1919-2008) was one of the three legendary 'baby ballerinas' who created an international dance sensation in the 1930s and 1940s. Her family fled Petrograd for Romania when she was one year old, and she began her dance training in Bucharest. Soon, the family moved to Paris, where she performed as a soloist at the Opéra in 1930 and the Théatre Mogador in 1931. In 1932, when just thirteen years of age, she was engaged by George Balanchine for his Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. She danced with the de Basil Ballets Russes companies until 1939, performing in Australia with the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-1939 in productions including Le Coq d'Or. From 1941 she appeared in the Americas, working in Hollywood in the 1940s before retiring. Henceforth, she lived in London with her husband, theatrical agent Cecil Tennant, and their children. Urged by Dame Margot Fonteyn, she emerged from retirement to serve on the technical committee of the Royal Academy of Dance and take up teaching. She lived the last eight years of her life near Byron Bay, NSW, where she completed her memoirs, Irina: ballet, life and love (2005).

National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the J Sages Family Trust 2009
Accession number: 2009.24