The Making of Markova

As improbable as it is inspiring, here’s the story of one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century, her fortitude and reinvention, and her journey from the Ballets Russes, Balanchine and Matisse to international stardom.

In pre-World War I England, a frail Jewish girl – so shy she barely spoke a word until age six and so sickly she needed to be homeschooled – is diagnosed with flat feet, knock knees and weak legs. In short order, Lilian Alicia Marks would become a dance prodigy, the cherished baby ballerina of Sergei Diaghilev, and the youngest ever soloist at his famed Ballets Russes. It was there that George Balanchine choreographed his first ballet for her, Henri Matisse designed her costumes, and Igor Stravinsky taught her music – all when the re-christened Alicia Markova was just 14. But the timid British dancer would also be forced to overcome poverty, jealousy, anti-Semitism, and prejudices against her unconventional looks to become the greatest classical ballerina of her generation, celebrated, self-reliant, and adventurous.

A true ambassador of ballet, Markova co-founded touring companies, traveled to the far corners of the world, and was the first ballerina to appear on television. Given unprecedented access to Dame Markova’s intimate journals and correspondence, Tina Sutton paints a full picture of the dancer’s astonishing life and times in 1920s Paris and Monte Carlo, 1930s London, and wartime in New York and Hollywood. Ballet lovers and readers everywhere will be fascinated by the story of one of the 20th century’s great artists. 60 photographs.

Tina Sutton is currently a fashion, features and arts writer for The Boston Globe and has been a writer, researcher, and journalist for over thirty years. She also researches and writes material for museum and art catalogs and the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.

Pegasus Books, 2013. Hardback, Paperback and Ebook, 682 pages + 60 photographs.


The Making of Markova is both a surprisingly intimate portrait of one of Britain’s and ballet’s truly great souls and a sweeping depiction of the kinetic, star-studded world of international ballet in the first half of the twentieth century. Tina Sutton’s lucid, deft and limber style admirably suits her subject.’  Paul Thomas Murphy, author of Shooting Victoria, a New York Times Notable Book

‘Sutton’s kinetic, meticulously choreographed biography draws upon a vast archive of letters and diaries to reveal the forces of light and gravity that shaped the fiercely independent dancer’s soaring 40-year career—and the delicate yet indelible mark she left on the dance world and beyond.’  Vogue