Fille mal gardee – Nikolai Legat as Colas, Anna Pavlova as Lise – ca. 1910

Nikolai Legat was an extraordinarily talented artist and he is the genius behind Russian ballet.

Born in Russia in 1865, he dedicated his life to perfecting the art of dance, drawing on his vast knowledge of different cultures and ballet techniques. His genius was even applauded by Russian royalty, as he received a standing ovation from Czar Nicholas II following a famous performance.

It was while working as a class assistant at the renowned Imperial Ballet School that Legat’s exceptional teaching skills were recognised. He eventually became Professor of the Class of Perfection, Ballet Master and Principal Choreographer at the Imperial Ballet Theatre.

A Rich Dance Legacy

In 1922 Nikolai left Russia forever, finally settling in London with his third wife, Nadine Nicolaeva, his favourite pupil. It was here that Nikolai set the foundation of the Legat system and started his own ballet classes.

Nikolai trained a new generation of dancers, who came from all over the world to take classes from him. Famously, he trained Agrippina Vaganova, who continued the Legat method, guiding the course of Russian ballet that we see today.

In 1923, Legat founded the Russian Ballet Society, of which Southborough School of Dance is a proud member. Nowadays, only teachers who are members of the Russian Ballet Society can offer the Legat method of training. In this way the Society continues to preserve and promote the teachings of the Great Master, as he was known.

Nikolai has been posthumously awarded a blue plaque, which can be seen outside the building of Colet House in London. This is where he lived, taught his lessons to numerous famous dancers and died. The Russian Ballet Society continues to have ties with this special building as it is where it holds meetings, talks, reunions and seminars for teacher training.

Nikolai’s memorabilia and bust are held at the Royal Ballet School for safe keeping and for historical interest. His picture, caricatures and bust are often on display in both White Lodge and the Upper School Royal Ballet.

See the Legat examination grades.

Russian Ballet in Tunbridge Wells

Interestingly, we have a local connection with the great Nicolai Legat. His wife, Nadine, chose our very own Tunbridge Wells to found The Legat School of Ballet, after her husband’s death. It was the first boarding school in the UK to offer ballet tuitions together with academic studies. In this way, Nadine continued her husband’s legacy, promoting the Legat name through the school.

Sadly, today the original school exists in name only as Bede’s Legat Dance Academy at Bede’s School.

Luckily though, Southborough School of Dance is committed to teaching Legat’s method, creating strong, elegant and expressive dancers right here in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Find out more about our ballet dance classes.