Lydia Lopokova

Lydia Lopokova

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Lydia Lopokova, Baroness Keynes (born Lidia Vasilyevna Lopukhova) (21 October 1892 - 8 June 1981; ) was a famous Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n ballerina
A ballerina is a title used to describe a principal female professional ballet dancer in a large company; the male equivalent to this title is danseur or ballerino...

 during the early 20th century. She is known also as Lady Keynes, the wife of the economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

 John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...



Lopokova was born into a Russian family in St. Petersburg. Her father, who was born a serf, worked as the chief usher at the Alexandrinsky Theatre; her mother was the descendant of a Scottish engineer. All the Lopukhov children became ballet dancers; one of them, Fyodor Lopukhov, was a chief choreographer for the Mariinsky Theatre
Mariinsky Theatre
The Mariinsky Theatre is a historic theatre of opera and ballet in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. The...

 from 1922 to 1935 and again from 1951 to 1956.

Lydia trained at the Imperial Ballet School, where she almost immediately became a star pupil. "She responded instinctively to the expressive choreography of Mikhail Fokine, his rebellion against the stiff academicism of the classical style, and her chance came when she was chosen to join the Ballets Russes
Ballets Russes
The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company from Russia which performed between 1909 and 1929 in many countries. Directed by Sergei Diaghilev, it is regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century. Many of its dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg...

... on their European tour in 1910.... Diaghilev
Sergei Diaghilev
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev , usually referred to outside of Russia as Serge, was a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, from which many famous dancers and choreographers would arise.-Early life and career:...

 knocked a year off her age and promoted her as a child star." She stayed with the ballet only briefly, knowing that she had little future in Russia ("she was the wrong size and shape for the grand roles and there were already plenty of prima ballerinas in St. Petersburg"), she accepted an American offer of ₤16,000 per month and after the summer tour left for the United States, where she remained for six years, enjoying tremendous success and legally changing her name to Lopokova in April 1914.

In 1915, while in New York, she had become engaged to the New York Morning Telegraph sportswriter Heywood Broun
Heywood Broun
Heywood Campbell Broun, Jr. was an American journalist. He worked as a sportswriter, newspaper columnist, and editor in New York City. He founded the American Newspaper Guild, now known as The Newspaper Guild. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he is best remembered for his writing on social issues and...

, later a member of the celebrated Algonquin Round Table
Algonquin Round Table
The Algonquin Round Table was a celebrated group of New York City writers, critics, actors and wits. Gathering initially as part of a practical joke, members of "The Vicious Circle", as they dubbed themselves, met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel from 1919 until roughly 1929...

 coterie. In 1916 she broke off their engagement—or perhaps Broun did: according to Fred Lieb
Fred Lieb
Frederick Lieb was an American sportswriter and baseball historian. He and his wife Mary were especially close to Lou Gehrig. Walter Brennan's character in the movie The Pride of the Yankees was loosely based on him...

, another sportswriter and a friend of Broun's at the time, Broun "caught the enchanting Lydia Lapopka in the lap, so to speak, of her Russian director. ... [Broun] walked east on one street, knocking over every garbage and trash can he passed. Then he walked west on the street giving it the same treatment. Just as he was getting really warmed up to the sport he ran into the hands of the law. Heywood spent the night in the hoosegow before friends bailed him out the next morning."

Actually, if Broun indeed caught her in flagrante, it was not in the lap of "her Russian director," Diaghilev, but the company's Italian business manager, Randolfo Barrocchi, whom she soon married. From her perspective, the union was ill-advised: "A 'glossy man of the world', he stole her earnings and — luckily — turned out to be a bigamist; meanwhile, in the midst of a wartime European tour, she had an on-off affair with Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

, who was married."

In America she was basically a novelty act, and she rejoined Diaghilev in 1916, dancing with the Ballets Russes, and her former partner Vaslav Nijinsky
Vaslav Nijinsky
Vaslav Nijinsky was a Russian ballet dancer and choreographer of Polish descent, cited as the greatest male dancer of the 20th century. He grew to be celebrated for his virtuosity and for the depth and intensity of his characterizations...

, in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and later in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. She first came to the attention of Londoners in The Good-humoured Ladies in 1918, and followed this with a raucous performance with Léonide Massine in the Can-Can
The can-can is a high-energy and physically demanding music hall dance, traditionally performed by a chorus line of female dancers who wear costumes with long skirts, petticoats, and black stockings...

 of La Boutique fantasque
La Boutique fantasque
La Boutique fantasque or The Magic Toy Shop was a ballet conceived by Léonide Massine who wrote the choreography and the libretto. Ottorino Respighi wrote the music based on piano pieces by Gioachino Rossini. Its world premiere was at the Alhambra Theatre in London on 5 June 1919 and was performed...

. When her marriage to Barrocchi broke down in 1919, the dancer abruptly disappeared for a time, as she had done before in America.

Relationship with Keynes

In 1921, Diaghilev staged a lavish production of The Sleeping Beauty in which Lopokova danced the Lilac Fairy and Princess Aurora. The production was a flop, but it brought her to the attention of Keynes
John Maynard Keynes
John Maynard Keynes, Baron Keynes of Tilton, CB FBA , was a British economist whose ideas have profoundly affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, as well as the economic policies of governments...

. He "sat every night in the stalls, enchanted by Lydia as the Lilac Fairy casting spells over the cradle." The two soon became lovers, and they were married in 1925, once her divorce from Barrocchi had been obtained. Until now, Keynes's closest relationships had been with the members of the Bloomsbury group
Bloomsbury Group
The Bloomsbury Group or Bloomsbury Set was a group of writers, intellectuals, philosophers and artists who held informal discussions in Bloomsbury throughout the 20th century. This English collective of friends and relatives lived, worked or studied near Bloomsbury in London during the first half...

, especially Vanessa Bell
Vanessa Bell
Vanessa Bell was an English painter and interior designer, a member of the Bloomsbury group, and the sister of Virginia Woolf.- Biography and art :...

 and Duncan Grant
Duncan Grant
Duncan James Corrowr Grant was a British painter and designer of textiles, potterty and theatre sets and costumes...

, who had been the great love of his life. They and other members of the group, such as Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

 and Lytton Strachey
Lytton Strachey
Giles Lytton Strachey was a British writer and critic. He is best known for establishing a new form of biography in which psychological insight and sympathy are combined with irreverence and wit...

, found Lydia difficult to accept and were resistant to her partnership with Keynes for many years even after their marriage took place. (Some of them later regretted their snobbery; E.M. Forster, for example, wrote: "How we all used to underestimate her.") However, she maintained friendships with many other members of London's cultural elite of the time, including T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

 and H.G. Wells. During these years she became a friend of Picasso, who drew her many times. Lopokova is represented as Terpsichore
In Greek mythology, Terpsichore "delight of dancing" was one of the nine Muses, ruling over dance and the dramatic chorus. She lends her name to the word "terpsichorean" which means "of or relating to dance". She is usually depicted sitting down, holding a lyre, accompanying the dancers' choirs...

, the muse of dancing, in The Awakening of the Muses, a mosaic at the National Gallery, London, laid by Boris Anrep
Boris Anrep
Boris Vasilyevich Anrep was a Russian artist, active in Britain, who devoted himself to the art of mosaic....

 in 1933. Also in 1933 she danced her last ballet role, as Swanilda in Coppélia
Coppélia is a sentimental comic ballet with original choreography by Arthur Saint-Léon to a ballet libretto by Saint-Léon and Charles Nuitter and music by Léo Delibes. It was based upon two macabre stories by E. T. A. Hoffmann, Der Sandmann , and Die Puppe...

for the new Vic-Wells Ballet.

Besides being involved in the early days of English ballet, Lopokova appeared on the stage in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 and Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 from 1928, and was broadcast on the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 as a presenter and in a number of acting roles; she read "The Red Shoes
The Red Shoes (fairy tale)
"The Red Shoes" is a fairy tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen first published by C.A. Reitzel in Copenhagen 7 April 1845 in New Fairy Tales. First Volume. Third Collection. 1845....

" over the BBC in 1935 (and a few years later reprised it for BBC television). She lived with Keynes in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Cambridge and Sussex
Sussex , from the Old English Sūþsēaxe , is an historic county in South East England corresponding roughly in area to the ancient Kingdom of Sussex. It is bounded on the north by Surrey, east by Kent, south by the English Channel, and west by Hampshire, and is divided for local government into West...

. "Lopokova was [Keynes's] partner in founding the Cambridge Arts Theatre
Cambridge Arts Theatre
Cambridge Arts Theatre is a 666-seat theatre on Peas Hill in central Cambridge, England. The theatre presents a varied mix of drama, dance, opera and pantomime. It attracts some of the highest-quality touring productions in the country, as well as many shows direct from, or prior to, seasons in the...

, and in advising him on the constitution for the Arts Council
Arts council
An arts council is a government or private, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the arts mainly by funding local artists, awarding prizes, and organizing events at home and abroad...

; with his financial input she became a moving spirit in the Camargo Society, which led to the creation of a national ballet company." After her husband's collapse from an attack of angina
Angina pectoris, commonly known as angina, is chest pain due to ischemia of the heart muscle, generally due to obstruction or spasm of the coronary arteries . Coronary artery disease, the main cause of angina, is due to atherosclerosis of the cardiac arteries...

 in 1937, Lopokova devoted herself increasingly to taking care of his health. She supervised his diet and making sure he had enough rest; "without her constant attention and her joie de vivre, Keynes might not have made it to Bretton Woods
United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference
The United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, commonly known as the Bretton Woods conference, was a gathering of 730 delegates from all 44 Allied nations at the Mount Washington Hotel, situated in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to regulate the international monetary and financial order after...



After Keynes's death in 1946, she largely disappeared from public view and lived in Tilton
Tilton may refer to:Places* Tilton, Illinois, United States* Tilton, New Hampshire & Tilton-Northfield, New Hampshire, United States* Tilton, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada* Tilton on the Hill, Harborough, Leicestershire, England* Tilton School...

, Sussex for her remaining years. Lopokova died in 1981, aged 88.


Her husband's nephew Milo Keynes
Milo Keynes
William Milo Keynes, MD, FRCS was a British doctor and author.Keynes was the third son of Sir Geoffrey Keynes, and his wife Margaret Darwin, daughter of Sir George Darwin. He was a great-grandson of the naturalist Charles Darwin, and a nephew of the economist John Maynard Keynes...

wrote a biography, Lydia Lopokova (St. Martin's Press, 1983); more recently Judith Mackrell has published Bloomsbury Ballerina: Lydia Lopokova, Imperial Dancer and Mrs John Maynard Keynes (Weidenfeld, 2008).