Alicia probably wouldn’t have believed she would ever turn into a splendid she-cat for Balanchine as a star of the Ballets Russes.
For a start, she was born Lily Marks, a jewish girl from Finsbury Park in North London. She had flat feet and weak legs, not your recommended recipe to become a prima ballerina!
Her options? Iron legs or ballet. And so ballet it was, leading Lily to audition her teens for Balanchine himself. She soon joined les Ballets russes but couldn’t be added officially to the bill until her name was properly russianised.
She proved to be an acrobatic dancer who could handle whatever was thrown at her, including moves normally reserved for her male counterparts.
Not only that, she also invented dance leggings, as typical ones were made of heavy wool which made dancers sweat and lose too weight, something she couldn’t afford with her slight frame. She came up with a light stitch which made all the difference and soon was knitting leggings for the other dancers.
Her career in the UK and beyond also flourished as she appeared across television, films, newspapers and stages all over the world. She proudly wore her jewish heritage, refusing offers of flattening her nose to a more acceptable ‘pretty’ standard.
Don’t be surprised if she pops up again soon in my drawings!