A Tribute to Galina Samsova

Everyone at Birmingham Royal Ballet was greatly saddened to learn of the death of former Principal ballerina Galina Samsova at the weekend. She made an unforgettable impact on the Company during her ten years with us, including co-producing and starring in Sir Peter Wright's epic 1981 Swan Lake. She remained a part of the Birmingham Royal Ballet family, returning to work with Sir David Bintley on his Giselle in 1999. Both of these ballets are still important parts of our repertory. She also staged Paquita for the Company.

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How sad I am to hear of the passing of the great ballerina and my dear friend, Galina Samsova.

Throughout our many years working together in Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, she was the perfect role model and an inspirational influence on me. I remember well her wonderful coaching when we first danced her joint production (with Sir Peter Wright) of Swan Lake. She, of course, was dancing Odette/Odile, but generously and lovingly gave me so much invaluable guidance. Her words (in her strong Russian accent) still ring in my ears, 'no drama in shoulders Taity'.

I tried to emulate her sublime ports de bras (unfussy, bold and beautiful) watching her many stunning performances and of course, learning from her classes.

But quite apart from Galina the ballerina, she was such fun to be with. We shared digs on tour on many occasions. As soon as we got back from the theatre, she would slip into her caftan, light up a 'More' cigarette and pour a glass of white wine, and reveal an extremely domesticated side, helping prepare food, washing up and anything else that needed doing!

For such a superb artist, there was absolutely no sign of a 'Diva'.

Galina will always be remembered fondly, not only by me, but anyone who had the good fortune of knowing her.

May she rest in peace.

Marion Tait
Former Company Principal and Assistant Director

Galina Samsova as Odette/Odile in the 1981 premiere of her and Sir Peter Wright's Swan Lake, with David Ashmole as Prince Siegfried and Desmond Kelly as Baron von Rothbart. Photos: Leslie E. Spatt

Galina Samsova (1937–2021)

Born in Stalingrad, Galina began her career with Ukrainian Ballet in Kiev. She emigrated but later returned as a guest artist to dance in Swan Lake and to undertake research for Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet's (now Birmingham Royal Ballet) production, which she co-produced with Sir Peter Wright. She joined the National Ballet of Canada and made her West European debut in a French production of Cinderella, for which she won a gold medal in the Paris International Dance Festival. She then joined London Festival Ballet as a Principal. Later she and André Prokovsky formed their own small company, the New London Ballet, which toured in five continents with a repertory consisting mostly of specially created works. She first danced as a guest with the Company in 1978 and joined as a Principal and teacher in 1980. Her roles included Lise (La Fille mal gardée), the title roles in Giselle, Raymonda Act III and Papillon, Eldest Sister (Las Hermanas), the Bride (La Fête étrange) and roles in Concerto and Les Sylphides. In 1980 she produced the grand pas from Paquita for the Company, dancing the leading role. Her co-production of Swan Lake with Peter Wright was premiered in 1981 with Galina dancing Odette/Odile at the first performance. She created roles in MacMillan's Quartet, Prokovsky's Vocalise Opus 34 and the Woman in Seymour's Intimate Letters. She appeared as Carabosse in the first performance of our current production of The Sleeping Beauty. She was Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet from 1990 to 1997.