Maya Plisetskaya (Photo: Reuters)
Maya Plisetskaya, considered one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century for performances that flouted Soviet convention, died on Saturday at the age of 89, the director of the Bolshoi, Vladimir Urin, announced.
"She died of a severe heart attack. The doctors tried everything, but there was nothing they could do," Urin said, quoted by the TASS news agency.
He said he had been informed by the ballerina's husband, Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin, that she had passed away in Germany, where they had a home.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to her family.
Plisetskaya danced for half a century and brought performances charged with eroticism and modern choreography to tradition-bound Soviet ballet.
Born in Moscow on November 20, 1925, her father was shot dead under Stalin's regime in 1938 and her actress mother was accused of being a traitor and sent to a labour camp in Kazakhstan.
Maya Plisetskaya joined the Bolshoi in 1943. During 50 years as a performer, she captivated audiences with the purity of her performances and her dazzling looks.
It was a career that was far from plain sailing.
She first sparked scandal in 1967 after a meeting in Moscow with Cuban choreographer Alberto Alonso, who as a citizen of a friendly communist country was allowed to create for her the Carmen Suite.
"Carmen -- where every gesture, every look, every movement had meaning, was different from all other ballets... The Soviet Union was not ready for this sort of choreography," Plisetskaya said.
"It was war, they accused me of betraying classical dance."