Valery Panov

Valery Panov

Valery Panov (born 12 March 1938) is a Russian-born Israeli dancer and choreographer.

Early career

Valery Panov was born in 1938 in Vitebsk, Belarus. He studied in the choreographic school named for Agripinna Vaganova in Saint Petersburg. Today it’s The Academy of Russian Ballet. He went on to the Moscow Ballet School, and the Leningrad Ballet School, graduating in 1957.

He danced with the Maly Ballet in Leningrad (1957–64), where he created roles in Lopukhov's Ballad of Love (1959), in Davitashvili's Daphnis and Chloe (1960) and Bolero (1960), and in Boyarsky's Petrushka (1961), Orpheus (title role, 1962), and The Lady and the Hooligan (1962). In 1964 he joined the Kirov, where he remained until 1972. There he created roles in Jacobson's Land of Miracles (1967), Vinogradov's Gorianka (1968), Sergeyev's Hamlet (title role, 1970), and Kasatkina's and Vasiliov's Creation of the World (1971).

Political problems

Although one of the greatest dancers in Russia, for political reasons Panov came to international attention when, in 1972, he and his second wife, the Kirov ballerina Galina Ragozina, applied for exit visas to Israel. The Panovs were expelled from the Kirov, imprisoned briefly and forbidden from taking class for two years.

They became an international cause. Many artists in the West (including Laurence Olivier) appealed to the authorities on their behalf. Finally, in 1974, the Panovs were allowed to leave Russia. They settled in Israel, although they made frequent guest appearances abroad as a couple. In Israel the Panovs danced with Batsheva Dance Company and Bat-Dor Company from 1974-7.


Panov was guest choreographer and principal dancer with the Berlin Opera Ballet between 1977 and 1983. There he choreographed several ballets, including Cinderella, Sacre du printemps, The Idiot, and War and Peace. He also staged Heart of the Mountain for the San Francisco Ballet (1976), Scheherazade and Petrushka for Vienna State Opera Ballet (1981), The Three Sisters for the Royal Swedish Ballet (1983), and Hamlet to music by Shostakovich for the Norwegian National Ballet (1984).

He was artistic director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders from 1984-6, for whom he staged Romeo and Juliet and Moves. In 1988 he created Cléopâtre for the Istanbul Devlet Ballet, using a cast of 200. From 1991 he was ballet director of the State Opera in Bonn, Germany where he created Dreyfus—J'accuse.

In 1993 he founded in the Aschdod, Israel Art Centre, a Ballet troupe affiliated with Ballet Academy.


To Dance: The Autobiography of Valery Panov (New York, 1978).


  • Valery Panov was awarded the Lenin Prize (1969).
  • He is an honorary citizen of New York City and San Francisco.
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