Marianna Tcherkassky was a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre (ABT) from 1976-1996 and is recognized as one of the world’s most influential and inspiring ballerinas. She was especially renowned as the title role in Giselle, received an honorary doctorate of performing arts from the University of Cincinnati, and received a Golden Ring award from the Asian-American Arts foundation in 1997. Tcherkassky’s beautiful and awe-inspiring dancing has influenced dancers, teachers, and choreographers in the past several decades. Her work will continue to encourage and amaze for generations.
Marianna Tcherkassky: Biography
Tcherkassky is of Japanese and Russian decent and was born in Maryland. She began her ballet training with her mother, Lillian Oka Tcherkassky. She then studied extensively at Mary Day’s Academy of the Washington School of Ballet, then on full scholarship with the famous School of American Ballet in New York. Her first major stage appearance was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the New York City Ballet in 1963. She joined the American Ballet Theatre in 1970, where she first performed her celebrated role as Giselle in 1976.
Later in her career, Tcherkassky and Mikhail Baryshnikov began to partner together in works such as Les Sylphides and Le Spectre de la Rose. She gained instant fame from this since Baryshnikov was so well loved at this time, and both of their reputations became more prominent as they astounded audiences together. Baryshnikov choreographed a new interpretation of The Nutcracker and gave Tcherkassky the role of Clara in the Washington D.C. premiere of the production after famous ballerina Gelsey Kirkland refused the role. She also often partnered with Fernando Bujones.
After Tcherkassky retired from the stage, she began teaching and still teaches to this day.
Marianna Tcherkassky | An Amazing Artist
Tcherkassky is admired for her dancing because she has a “soft” quality to her movement that attracts audiences. She moves gracefully and without flashy technique, but rather with gentle and delighting care. Her lyrical phrasing made her perfect for Romantic style ballets, like Les Sylphides and Giselle, and the long, mid-calf, white Romantic tutus used in this style suited her wonderfully. She was respected for her travelling turns and gentle but strong feet.
While she was occasionally accused of not “projecting” enough— for being so quiet in personality that dazzling roles like Kitri from Don Quixote and Medora from Le Corsaire did not suit her because they were too fiery— she was so adept at performing calm and dreamy roles that this flaw was excused. She is still a sought-after teacher and is married to Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Terrence S. Orr.
Marianna Tcherkassky was an amazing Prima Ballerina and should be remembered for years to come for her beautiful technique and soft, graceful execution, as well as for her wonderful teaching abilities.