Vera Alexandrova was an influential Russian-born dance instructor in Stockholm. She taught many people who later became prominent dancers, choreographers, and actors. She was also a much-treasured writer of fiction.
Vera Alexandrova was born in Moscow in 1893. She studied ballet, expressionist dance, and drama at the Russian Academy of Theatre Arts, GITIS, from which she graduated in 1918. After the Russian Revolution she fled to Tallinn, where she became employed as a dancer and a director of dance at the state opera. She married the Swedish engineer Ernst Gösta Lundquist in 1923 and moved to Gothenburg. There she set up a dance school for children, youth, and adults, which very quickly attracted attention. In 1926 she and the school moved to Östermalm, Stockholm. She lived in Sigtuna, and eventually in Stockholm, for the rest of her life. During the 1920s and 1930s her dance school was very popular amongst the well-to-do of Stockholm. She taught both ballet and what was called “plastisk dans” (a form of freestyle dance), and she collaborated with various theatres, where students would perform and eventually gain employment. During her early years in Sweden she herself also performed as a dance artist. It was not long before she began to write dance reviews in Swedish, particularly for the journal Scenen, whilst she also entertained local artists, radicals, and intellectuals of various nationalities at her apartment in Stockholm.
Vera Alexandrova was inspired by Isadora Duncan’s ideas on expressionist dance and women’s emancipation. Vera Alexandrova believed that dance could release the artistic ability which lies inside every person, especially within every child. Spontaneous physical movements could also allow people to become aware of and express their imagination and their personality whilst releasing internal tensions. Vera Alexandrova ’s reputation was largely based on her role as a dance instructor. Several of her students went on to become successful dancers, choreographers, and teachers, including Birgit Cullberg, Elsa Marianne von Rosen, Ivo Cramér, and Eva Dahlgren.
In 1937 Vera Alexandrova married for a second time, this time to the author Peder Sjögren. She then began writing and published her collection of lyrical prose stories entitled Katedralen i berget, 1941. Its modern and dreamy style was well-received by the reviewers. For several years during the 1940s Vera Alexandrova gave lectures and held classes at Södergården in Stockholm. At Hertha Svensson’s suggestion Vera Alexandrova became employed by Tobaksmonopolet in Stockholm to instruct the female factory workers in rhythmic gymnastics. She described this job in poetic and vivid terms in Maskinen och blomman, published in 1944. At the same time she also published a more melancholy poetry collection entitled Femina sum.
Vera Alexandrova felt that artistic creativity, brotherly love, and prayer all originated from the same source, which people attain when they recognise their failings, share each other’s pain, and abandon convention in order to follow their intuition. Her religious expression walked hand in hand with her criticism of society. She had been born into the Russian Orthodox Church but became a Catholic convert. In her book of reflections entitled Skogen Stockholm, 1945, Vera Alexandrova developed the religious themes she had already hinted at in her earlier books, albeit with a somewhat more dogmatic emphasis. Her autobiographical novels Sandal och sidensko, 1949, and Träduvor i parken, 1950, recount her childhood and training years as a young dancer in Moscow.
Vera Alexandrova died in Sigtuna in 1968. She is buried at Katolska kyrkogården (the Catholic Cemetery) in Stockholm.