University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections

Tatiana Semenova Papers

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Semenova, Tatiana
Title: Tatiana Semenova Papers
Dates: 1920-1996
Abstract: During Tatiana Semenova's long career as a ballet dancer and teacher, she danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Paris Opera Ballet, led the American Youth Ballet in Houston, served as Director of the Houston Ballet Academy, and formed the Ballet of Houston. Her collection includes scrapbooks, photograph, programs, and personal materials.
Identification: uhstse01
Quantity: 7 boxes; 2.9 linear feet
Repository: Special Collections & Archives, University of Houston Libraries

Biographical Note

Tatiana Semenova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia on July 17, 1920. She moved with her family to Paris when she was five. At the age of seven she began studying at the dancing school of Matilda Kchessinska, a legendary Russian ballerina and wife of Grand Duke Andrei of Russia.

Madame Semenova made her stage debut when she was eleven with a Russian opera company formed in London by Sir Thomas Beecham. The following year she began her formal dance career as a member of the Col. Vassili de Basil's famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, touring the United States and South America. In 1937 Semenova joined the Paris Opera Ballet as premiere danseuse starring in stage entertainments with Lucien Boyer, Sascha Guitry, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Trenet.

During World War II, in coordination with the United Service Organizations (USO), Semonova formed a group called the Foxhole Ballet to tour Europe and Africa. While performing in Rome on a bomb damaged stage her leg went through a weak board; she severed the cartilage in her left knee and suffered a compound fracture in her right arm. The accident ended her dancing career.

In early 1946 Semenova returned to America and began her teaching career at the School of Dance Arts, Carnegie Hall, in New York City. Backed by a former USO contact, she formed American Youth Ballet in 1950 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 1954, Semonova brought the American Youth Ballet to Houston. The following year, the newly formed Houston Foundation for Ballet invited her to form the Houston Ballet Academy - the precursor to the Houston Ballet. She remained director of the Academy for eleven years. Academy dancers also appeared in selected Houston Grand Opera performances.

In 1966, the Houston Ballet Academy Board of Directors pressed for a professional performing company under a new artistic director. Semonova declined an offer to continue as teacher and advisor. She resigned to form her own company, Ballet of Houston, which debuted in 1968. The company thrived through the middle 1980s. Despite increasing physical problems Semenova continued to teach privately in Houston until her death at the age of 76 on September 24, 1996. She is buried next to her mother, Olga Semenova, in the cemetery of St. Michael Island in Venice, Italy.

Scope and Contents

The Tatiana Semenova papers consist of seven boxes of personal material dating from 1933 to 1997. It documents Madame Semenova's early dancing career with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and her later teaching career in Baton Rouge and Houston. There are five series in this collection: Scrapbooks, Photographs, Personal, Programs, and Realia. The collection was received in no particular order. The processor has imposed the arrangement.



Photocopy decisions will be made by Special Collections & Archives staff on a case-by-case basis. Patrons are responsible for obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders.

Index Terms

Terms are either Library of Congress Subject Headings or taken from local sources.
Subjects (Persons)
Semenova, Tatiana
Subjects (Organizations)
Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo
American Youth Ballet
Houston Ballet Academy
Houston Foundation for Ballet

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Tatiana Semenova Papers, Courtesy of Special Collections & Archives, University of Houston Libraries.


Items in this collection were donated by Bette Fitzpatrick in the spring of 200l.

Processed by:

Edward F. Lukasek, 2001

Detailed Description

1-3 Scrapbooks
This series consists of five personal scrapbooks of Tatiana Semenova. They contain programs, clippings, and photographs dating from 1933 through 1964. Many items are duplicated amongst the different scrapbooks.
1 Scrapbook (Ballet Russe and WWII), 1933-1945
2 Scrapbook (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 1953-1955
Spiral Binder (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 1953-1955
Scrapbook (Houston, Texas), 1955-1964
3 Scrapbook (Houston, Texas), 1955-1964

box folder
4 1-30 Photographs
This series consists of two boxes of photographs dating from the 1930s to the 1980s. The series has been broken into four sub-series: Publicity, Personal, American Youth Ballet, and Houston Foundation for Ballet. The ten folders of publicity photographs are of Tatiana, both alone and with others, and date from her early dancing career in the 1930s. The seven folders of Personal photographs date from the 1930s to 1950s. The seven folders containing American Youth Ballet photographs show her work with that group during the 1950s. The three folders of Houston Foundation for Ballet photographs are from the 1960s. Each sub-series is arranged chronologically.
Box Folder
4 1-10 Publicity Shots
1 Photographs, 1930s
2 Larger format photograph, 1930s
3 Photograph, 1930s
4 Photographs, 1930s
5 Photograph, 1930s
6 Photographs, 1930s
7 Photographs, 1930s
8 Photograph, 1940s
9 Photographs, 1950s
10 Photographs, 1950s
box folder
4 11-19 Miscellaneous
Box Folder
4 11 Photograph, 1930s
12 Photograph, 1930s
13 Print of a Russian man, 1938
14 Photographs, 1940s
15 Inscribed photograph of John Frederick, 1945
16 Photograph, 1950s
17 Inscribed photograph of Jean Delasser, 1950s
18 Photograph with her mother Olga, 1950s
19 Photographs of a sculpted bust of Semenova, 1950s
box folder
4 20-27 American Youth Ballet
Box Folder
4 20 Photographs: Faust, 1950s
21 Photographs of workshop, 1950s
22 Photographs, 1950s
23 Photograph, 1950s
24 Photograph, 1950s
25 Photographs, 1950s
26 Group photograph, 1950s
27 Photographs: Circus, March 20, 1955
box folder
4 28-30 Houston Foundation for Ballet
Box Folder
4 28 Photograph of Music Hall: Enigma, 1959
29 Photographs, 1960s
30 Photographs: Suite in White, 1960s

box folder
5 1-17 Personal Records
This series consists of one box of personal records including naturalization papers, passports, driver's licenses, and death certificates. Unless otherwise specified, documents relate to Tatiana Seminova. Materials in this series date chronologically from 1944 to 1997.
Box Folder
5 1 Certificate of Naturalization, May 25, 1944
2 Certificate of Literacy, State of New York, Sept. 30, 1948
3 Divorce Papers, May, June 1954
4 Olga Semenova Papers, 1954-1974
5 Cremation Request, July 17, 1975
6 Driver's Licenses and Passports, 1975-1985
7 Social Security Benefits and Personal List, Apr 5, 1987
8 Durable Power of Attorney, Aug 22, 1996
9 Obituary Houston Chronicle, Sept 25, 1996
10 Death Certificate, Sept 27, 1996
11 Funeral Papers, 1996
12 Postcards of Tatiana's and Olga's Grave, 1996
13 Cremation Papers, Mar 3, 1997
14 "Last Apartment" Letter, Nov 25 1997
15 Address List for Memorial Cards, 1997
16 Memorial Cards, 1997
17 Inscribed Memories Book, 1997

box folder
6 1-22 Programs / Leaflets
This series consists of one box of ballet programs and leaflets dating chronologically from the 1950s to 1987. They follow Madame Semenova's career in New York, Baton Rouge, and Houston.
Box Folder
6 1 School of Dance Arts in New York, [1949]
2 The Register of Baton Rouge, Feb. 18, 1950
3 Programs: American Youth Ballet, 1953-54-55
4 Houston Foundation for Ballet Charter, 1955
5 Houston Foundation for Ballet Flyers, [1956]
6 Program: Enigma, Feb. 23, 1959
7 Esther Wolf presents Forty Six Paintings, 1960's
8 Houston Foundation for Ballet sixth summer, June 5, 1961
9 Pan-American Round Tables of Texas, Apr. 1-5, 1963
10 Program: Ballet Evening, Feb. 23, 1960
11 Program: Die Fledermaus, Mar. 5 & 7, 1960
12 Program: Sound and Motion, May 15-16, 1964
13 St. Anthony's Feast Day Annual Party Program, June 13, 1967
14 Dance Magazine, Feb. 1964
15 Saturday Review, Mar. 28, 1964
16 Dance Magazine, May 1964
17 Houston Post Sunday Magazine, October 11, 1964
18 Houston Chronicle Texas Magazine, June 13, 1965
19 Letter from Renzo Sommaruga, 1983
20 Houston Ballet Press Kit for Tribute, Nov. 1983
21 News Clippings of Ballet Russe Tribute, Oct.-Nov. 1983
22 Houston Ballet, The Nutcracker, Dec. 16-30, 1983
22 Houston Downtown Magazine, Apri1 4, 1987

7 Realia
This series contains one Russian lacquer wood box, round with a three inch diameter, painted in gold and black.
7 Russian lacquer box, undated