Woman Bousloff, Kira Abricossova
- Artistic Director, Ballerina and Choreographer
Written by Grace Edwards, The University of Melbourne
Born in Monte Carlo in 1914 to Russian parents exiled in France at the outbreak of World War I, Kira Bousloff (née Abricossova) spent her childhood in Monte Carlo, Nice, Biarritz and Paris, taking classes in Paris from Russian emigre ballerinas, including Mathilde Kchessinska and Olga Preobrajenska, as well as Alexander Volinine, the partner of Russian ballet star Anna Pavlova. Abricossova began her professional career with the company of Paris Opera Ballet teacher Leo Staats, which went to South America around 1930. She also worked with a small company financed by Ida Rubinstein and directed by Bronislava Nijinska from 1932 until that company folded in 1934, after which she successfully auditioned for Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes, touring with the company in Europe and America alongside her first husband, Russian-born dancer Serge Bousloff.
She came to Australia in 1938, touring under her maiden name, as a member of the Covent Garden Russian Ballet. Due to the outbreak of World War II, Abricossova remained in Australia at the end of the tour in 1939, after which she assumed the name Kira Bousloff, by which she was known for the rest of her life despite a divorce and another marriage to composer James Penberthy in 1961, which also ended in divorce.
Following her decision to stay in Australia, Bousloff danced with both Laurel Martyn's Ballet Guild and the Melbourne-based National Theatre Ballet, remounting some of the ballets she knew from her time with the Ballets Russes, including Le Carnaval, Prince Igor, Protée and Schéhérazade. She also created some works of her own including the Russian-inspired Prašník.
Bousloff is regarded as a pioneer of Australian ballet for her establishment and direction of the Perth-based West Australian Ballet in 1952; the company held its premiere performance in July 1953. Her vision for the company was to see it perform ballet with themes and stories inspired by Australian legends, with sets designed by local artists and music composed by Australians. Indeed, Bousloff and her second husband, Penberthy, collaborated on many productions with Australian themes including The Beach Inspector and The Mermaid in 1958, Kooree and The Mists in 1960, and Fire at Ross's Farm in 1961. Her best work for the West Australian Ballet was considered to be Poème Symphonique to music by Lizst.
Bousloff retired as director in 1969 when the company received its first government support, after which she was succeeded by Rex Reid as Artistic Director. However, she continued to teach until her death in 2001. She was the recipient of an Australia Dance Award for lifetime achievement in 2000. She is survived by a son, Alex Bousloff, and a daughter from her second marriage, Dr. Tamara Walters.
National Library of Australia Oral History Collection
- Potter, Michelle, Kira Bousloff: Founder of the West Australian Ballet, The University of Melbourne: Department of Germanic Studies and Russian, Parkville, Victoria, 1991. Details
- Lawson, Valerie, 'Bousloff, Pioneer of Australian Dance, Dies at 87', The Sydney Morning Herald (New South Wales), 18 September 2001, p. 14. Details
- 'Our Founder', in West Australian Ballet, http://www.waballet.com.au/about_us_ourfounder.php. Details
- Kira Bousloff interviewed by Michelle Potter in the Esso Performing Arts collection
- 28 August 1990
- National Library of Australia
- National Library of Australia Oral History Collection