About Tamara Geva (Gevergeyeva)
Tamara Geva (17 March 1907 - 9 December 1997) was a Russian actress, ballet dancer and choreographer. She was the first wife of dancer/choreographer George Balanchine.
She was born as Tamara Gevergeyeva (some sources cite her birth name as Sheversheieva Gevergeyeva), the daughter of Levko Gevergeyev, a wealthy manufacturer of church vestments and a patron of avante-garde artists. She shortened her surname to Geva when she came to St. Petersburg, Russia. Her father was a freethinker and had been raised in the Muslim faith. Her mother was Swedish. Her parents were not officially married until their daughter was 6. As a child she lived in a huge 18th century house which had a miniature theater and a theater museum. The museum is preserved and is currently known as The State Museum of Theater and Music.
Geva studied ballet with a private teacher, but after the Russian Revolution of 1917 she entered the Imperial Theatre School in Maryinsky, when it began to accept older ballet students for night classes. Here she met dancer and impresario George Balanchine, who was teaching ballroom dance classes. She married Balanchine in 1921 (not 1923 as has been misreported) aged 14; the marriage was dissolved in 1926. She later married American actor John Emery, the former husband of Tallulah Bankhead.
She died, aged 90, on 9 December 1997 at her home in Manhattan from natural causes.
While still in Russia, Geva began appearing professionally in ballet concerts. In 1924, together with Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova, Geva defected from the Soviet Russia on a tour to Germany, after Diaghilev had invited them to join the Ballets Russes, where she danced until 1926. She also appeared in 1925 in a German production of A Midsummer Night's Dream as Oberon. In 1927, she introduced Balanchine's choreography to New York City, when she danced two brief solos by him. At the time she was touring with Nikita Balieff's Chauve-Souris, a touring revue which was composed of Russian emigres.
On Broadway, Geva appeared in the musicals Three's A Crowd (1930), Flying Colors (1932) and Whoopee (1934). In 1935 she performed with the American Ballet. This was Balanchine's initial company in New York. Geva immersed herself in film and theater work. In 1936, she was paired with actor Ray Bolger in the musical On Your Toes by Rodgers and Hart.
For On Your Toes, she choreographed a dramatic "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" sequence and a balletic parody. One reviewer described her performance as magnificent, adding "she can burlesque it with the authority of an artist on holiday". She went on to act in plays that demonstrated her great flexibility as a performer. She was featured in productions of the works of Euripedes, George Bernard Shaw, and Jean Paul Sartre. She starred with Raymond Massey in the London premiere of an anti-war play, Idiot's Delight (1938), written by Robert E. Sherwood. She acted in Euripedes' The Trojan Women in New York in 1941, and in the Los Angeles, California production of Sartre's No Exit in 1947.
In 1953 Geva played the character of a sarcastic acrobat in a New York revival of George Bernard Shaw's Misalliance. The cast included Roddy McDowall and Richard Kiley. In 1959, Geva and Haila Stoddard created Come Play With Me a musical comedy with a score penned by Dana Suesse that had a short off-Broadway run.
She choreographed the dances for the film Specter of the Rose (1946), written by Ben Hecht. Her last performance was on screen in Frevel (1984), credited simply as Tamara.
In her later years, Geva had several exhibitions of her paintings.