Raymonda - Noëlla Pontois
Noëlla Pontois, born December 24, 1943 in Vendôme, is one of France's greatest ballerinas. She began dance studies on the advice of her doctor who thought she was too frail. Her teachers found her to have "concentration, a strong will, discipline and assiduousness." She entered the corps de ballet of the Paris Opéra in 1960 and was promoted to the rank of prima ballerina in 1966. She was chosen by Rudolf Nureyev to be his partner in The Nutcracker. She danced frequently with him, and collaborated with most of the great choreographers of the time: Roland Petit, Maurice Béjart, Serge Lifar, John Neumeier etc… She married a Japonese dancer Daïni Kudo and her daughter Mitéki Kudo is in the corps de ballet in Paris. She ended her career at the age of 40 in the ballet Raymonda (choreographed by Nureyev), which is featured in the video above. Raymonda, by Russian composer Alexander Glazunov, was one of the last ballets composed in the nineteenth century (1898).
Below, a photo of a nineteenth century ballerina Pierina Legnani. The ideal of the swan-like ethereal creature we associate with ballerinas came later. Before, female dancers were a bit heavier, though I'm sure it did not affect their dancing. The change came with the indisputably great Russian choreographer George Balanchine who wanted his dancers to really look like swans. So strict dieting became the norm. How it affected the health of the women I cannot say, but it's a grueling life for them.
Those interested may want to view the video below of Noëlla Pontois and Rudolf Nureyev in 1976 in a scene from Prokofiev's Petrouchka. It's a delightful excerpt that showcases Nureyev a bit more than Pointois.