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Russian Ballerina Lepeshinskaya Dies At 92


Olga Lepeshinskaya in April 2007

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian ballerina Olga Lepeshinskaya, who danced for decades at the Bolshoi Theatre and captured the attention of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, died on December 20 at the age of 92.

Born in Kyiv in 1916, Lepeshinskaya joined the Bolshoi ballet troupe in 1933 and for the next 30 years became known for her starring roles in "Don Quixote" and "The Nutcracker."

Stalin watched her perform at Moscow's 18th-century Bolshoi Theatre several times and she was widely reported to have been his favourite ballerina. She continued to dance at the Bolshoi into the 1960s.

"It is a huge loss for national culture, and for Russian ballet in particular," Itar-Tass agency quoted Vladimir Vasilyev, the former chief choreographer at the Rome Opera house, as saying.

Lepeshinskaya died in her Moscow home in her sleep and will be buried on Tuesday, Russian agencies said.

The government said President Dmitry Medvedev sent his condolences to Lepeshinskaya's friends and family.