The last heir

At the beginning, Wladimir Skouratoff wanted to become a pianist, because his mother Marguerite was one herself. Nevertheless, he began studying dance with Olga Preobrajenska, the famous Russian teacher who was residing in Paris, and during the war hard times he was driven to dance at the Lido’s. “As any Russian family, we had to earn the money to live, to eat. But thanks to the Dance, I have always lived within the music world!”, he says.

At Preobrajenska’s studio, he was the only boy amongst the female students. And the teacher said to him “You just do what you see the others do...”.

With Olga Preobrajenska,
his first dancing teacher

After several years, he studied with Alexandre Volinine, who had been a partenaire to Pavlova, and this teacher transmitted him the great traditional style of the danseur noble and exquisite partenaire on which Skouratoff excelled afterwards dancing with Chauvire, Toumanova, Markova, Jeanmaire, Moreau, Ferri and many other great dancers.


With Jacqueline Moreau
in “Dúo”
Photo: S.Lido


With Ivette Chauviré
in “Suite romantique”
Photo: Alec Murray


With Olga Ferri
in “Giselle”


With Rosella Hightower
in “Piège de lumière”

Mastering a dazzling technique – his performance on the Polovtsien Dances of Prince Igor was unforgettable –, ownering a great physical beauty and an innate masculinity which was one of his outstanding characteristics (a very rare combination indeed on a male dancer), Skouratoff became a danseur étoile after 1946, when Serge Lifar saw him dance a “Narcisse” with Roland Petit’s troupe, that impeled him to take young Volodia under his artistic conduction. Since that moment, and in the words of Skouratoff himself, “without making me pass through a corps de ballet,he entrusted me with responsible dancing.”

Thus he performed in “Chota Roustaveli” “a huge ballet in four acts, almost an encyclopedia”- with Ivette Chauvire, Janine Charrat, Alexandre Kalioujni and Youli Algaroff (this two dancing with him an almost acrobatic warlike dance which, in Pierre Michaut’s words, “confronted this remarquable trio of artists”).

Lifar made him dance also in “Aubade” (Francis Poulenc) and “Pygmalion” (Prokofieff), both with Renee Jeanmaire; in “Romeo et Juliette” (Tchaikowski) with Ivette Chauvire and in “Mephisto Valse” (Liszt) with Ludmilla Tcherina and Edmond Audran, at Le nouveau Ballet de Monte-Carlo.

In "Aubade" (1946)
Photo: Séeberger Frères

Lifar’s influence upon Skouratoff enhanced that one from Volinine upon his danseur noble and partenaire’s style. But on his own words, “I always wanted to do something else”. And that’s the time, we believe, when it begins another great influence upon him, that from Leonide Massine, another genious of Dance and Choreography. This one was making the reposition of “Le Beau Danube” (Strauss) for the Monte-Carlo’ compagnie, and Skouratoff danced the part of The Dandy. Several years after he became the main character, the Hussar, with the Marquis De Cuevas Company, and this was going to be one of his greatest creations.

His wish and these influences made him become one of the few great danseurs classiques and démi-caractère of all times.

Thus, on a London Covent Garden’ season in 1947, he danced the part of the Favourite in “Schéhérezade” (R.Korsakoff), which the English dance critic John Percival described as Skouratoff’s best performance of that season: “His magnificent elevation alone would have made this performance memorable, but his interpretation was even more astonishing. Carl van Vechten has described Nijinsky in this rôle with his “subtle and sensuous fingers” fluttering close to Zobeide’s flesh without ever touching her; Skouratoff, creating exactly this same effect, gave some idea of the passionate conviction the part must have gained from its first interpreter.” (Excerpt from Percival’s article “He can bring a poor ballet to success”, 1959).

With Mlle. Cassini
in "Schehérezade"

After some briefs but fruitful seasons at Les Ballets de Paris de Roland Petit and at Les Ballets des Champs-Elyssées, and during the time he was dancing the rôle of Prince Albrecht in “Giselle” – which was to become one of his greatests performances – in 1951, the Marquis Jorge de Cuevas, who had already formed his own Company in the USA with many american dance stars, after seing Skouratoff’s performance at the Palais de Chaillot, immediately engaged him as one of his danseurs étoiles. He remained with this Company until the death of Cuevas, in 1961.

Another unforgettable experience has been to see him dance with this Company in Buenos Aires, at the 1954-1956 seasons. At this time, his artistic capacities were definitevely consolidated, and we saw him dance his greatest creations, “Piège de lumière” (Taras), “Le Beau Danube” (Massine), the before mentioned “Dances Polovtsiennes” (Fokine) – our well remembered Fernando Emery said that “his performance was the best we have seen since that one of the mythical Adolphe Bolm” – and the incredible Albrecht from “Giselle” (Adam-Coralli-Perrot).


In Buenos Aires
Photo: A. Heinrich


In Buenos Aires
Photo: A. Heinrich

We want to point out that whitin the frame of the De Cuevas’company in 1954, Bronislawa Nijinska made a reposition of “Bolero” (Ravel) for Skouratoff and Marjorie Tallchief and of “Petrouchka” (Stravinsky) for Skouratoff and Serge Golovine.

With Marjorie Tallchief
in "Boléro"

He was the main character in “Le rendez-vous manqué” (Taras-Magne, upon a libretto by Françoise Sagan) in 1958, an independent production of Roger Vadim, which was afterwards represented in London and USA. English critics said regarding to this, “the main burden of the dancing fell on the shoulders of Skouratoff who was on most of the time in every act. He is a very fine dancer and what he has to do must amount to one of the most exhausting male rôles in contemporary ballet. He danced for all he was worth and appeared to be tireless.”

In "Le rendezvous manqué"
with Toni Lander
Photo: S.Lido

He appeared afterwards at the French television, dancing in “Les Filles du feu”, as the french poet Gérard de Nerval, also in Dances from “Kovantchina” (Moussorgski), and in “L’histoire du soldat” and “Le rossignol et l’Empereur de la Chine” (Stravinsky), “Concerto d’Aranjuez” (Rodrigo) and “Le mandarin merveilleux” (Bela Bartok), between 1958 and 1964.

Advertissement on Frech television
"Les filles du feu"


Between 1960 and 1970 he performed for European stages, beggining at the London Festival Ballet and also as a choreographer at the Opera Theatres of Nice, Strasbourg, Geneva and Belgium.
In 1970 he was hired as maître de ballet and choreographer by the Grand Théatre of Bordeaux, where he remained until 1990, creating numerous ballets, mainly recovering for the Company the great Russian-French Dance tradition this one had received two hundred years before through the famous Marius Petipa.
We give a separated list with the titles from his productive work in the Grand Théatre de Bordeaux, after the files we personnally consulted in 2006, consisting in almost 50 of his own coreographies and reprises, and more than 30 operettes, created during that 20 years period.


In Buenos Aires
Photo: A. Castro


In "Bolero"

Even when 1990 was the year of his retirement from the Dance world, he continued working privately and in 2006 he was summoned by the Opera Theatre of Kiev, Serge Lifar’s born city in Ukrainia, to make the reprise of “Aubade”, which Lifar had created 60 years before for Skouratoff and Renee Jeanmaire.

In "Aubade"
with Renée Jeanmaire

This was an unique event, very dear for the Russians who keep a special devotion for Lifar as for every descendant from the fellow citizens on the exile. This is also the case of Skouratoff, son of russian parents born in France.

We believe that considering him as the Dance Russian-French tradition’s last heir is but an act of historical justice, specially given the fact that almost any of his contemporaries are no longer among us, and mainly that Skouratoff not only is alive and well, but also he’s still creating and is a contributor of Dance’s world on this new century.

Chevalier des arts et des lettres

At the very beginning of this new century, the French Ministry of Culture and Communications has bestowed Wladimir Skouratoff with the Chevalier degree on the order of Arts and Letters, one of the foremost distinctions from the French Republic. “This distinction wishes to honor those who excelled by his creations on the artistic or literary domain, or by his contributions to the diffusion of French culture in France and the world.” As it is expressed on the letter of the Ministry Catherine Trautmann to Skouratoff on January 1st , 2000.

Amalia Contursi