Tales from the archive
Occasional stories discovered from photographs contained in our archive.
In 1956 with the Cold War raging the word famous Bolshoi Ballet, after much diplomatic activity, agreed to perform at Covent Garden in London.
The company included Galina Ulanova described by composer Prokofiev as “the genius of Russian ballet, its elusive soul and its inspired poetry”. Rudolf Nureyev considered her to be, “the world's Number One Ballerina".
The Bolshoi Company’s visit did not go smoothly. A dock strike delayed the landing of their scenery and their USSR state plane was prevented from landing at Heathrow and had to be diverted to Manston airport, then an American airbase, touching down on October 1st.
The performers along with some KGB minders no doubt disembarked onto Thanet soil by means of a hastily constructed platform and ladder. All except Ulanova who refused to get off until she had received official permission from Moscow.
Then, from Manston under the gaze of the press, ITN news, excited public and American airport police the company left on a hastily hired East Kent coach bound for London. The season was a great success, sold out before a single performance was performed.
Photos in the archive show the company members disembarking with some trepidation and standing on the runway looking up waiting for Ulanova to appear. She is also seen sitting in the front of the coach awaiting departure.
You can read more about the visit here