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Tatiana Semenova Papers

Identifier: 2001-008

The Tatiana Semenova papers consist of seven boxes of personal material dating from 1933 to 1997. It documents Madame Semenova's early dancing career with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and her later teaching career in Baton Rouge and Houston. There are five series in this collection: Scrapbooks, Photographs, Personal, Programs, and Realia. The collection was received in no particular order. The processor has imposed the arrangement.


  • 1920-1996

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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3.0 linear feet

Biographical Information

Tatiana Semenova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on July 17, 1920. She moved with her family to Paris when she was five. At the age of seven she began studying at the dancing school of Matilda Kchessinska, a legendary Russian ballerina and wife of Grand Duke Andrei of Russia.

Madame Semenova made her stage debut when she was eleven with a Russian opera company formed in London by Sir Thomas Beecham. The following year she began her formal dance career as a member of the Col. Vassili de Basil's famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, touring the United States and South America. In 1937, Semenova joined the Paris Opera Ballet as premiere danseuse starring in stage entertainments with Lucien Boyer, Sascha Guitry, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Trenet.

During World War II, in coordination with the United Service Organizations (USO), Semonova formed a group called the Foxhole Ballet to tour Europe and Africa. While performing in Rome on a bomb damaged stage, her leg went through a weak board; she severed the cartilage in her left knee and suffered a compound fracture in her right arm. The accident ended her dancing career.

In early 1946, Semenova returned to America and began her teaching career at the School of Dance Arts, Carnegie Hall, in New York City. Backed by a former USO contact, she formed American Youth Ballet in 1950 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1954, Semonova brought the American Youth Ballet to Houston. The following year, the newly formed Houston Foundation for Ballet invited her to form the Houston Ballet Academy - the precursor to the Houston Ballet. She remained director of the Academy for eleven years. Academy dancers also appeared in selected Houston Grand Opera performances.

In 1966, the Houston Ballet Academy Board of Directors pressed for a professional performing company under a new artistic director. Semonova declined an offer to continue as teacher and advisor. She resigned to form her own company, Ballet of Houston, which debuted in 1968. The company thrived through the middle 1980s. Despite increasing physical problems Semenova continued to teach privately in Houston until her death at the age of 76 on September 24, 1996. She is buried next to her mother, Olga Semenova, in the cemetery of St. Michael Island in Venice, Italy.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Items in this collection were donated by Bette Fitzpatrick in the spring of 2001.

Related Materials

Ted Shaw Collection (S) *MGZMC-Res. 31, New York Public Library Archives,

Contains 3 Tatiana Semenova letters.

Processing Information

Edward F. Lukasek, 2001

Guide to the Tatiana Semenova Papers
Edward F. Lukasek
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA