Tumanishvili (Toumanova) was born on
March 2, 1919 in Tyumen, Siberia, Russia.
Tamara was born on a train while her
mother was trying to flee Russia in search of her
husband.They had become separated during the
Revolution. Tamara was 18 months old before her
parents were reunited. The family escaped from Russia
to Shanghai, where they lived for a year, then moved
to Cairo. After spending time in various refugees'
camps the family eventually settled in Paris. Tamara
studied ballet in Paris in 1924 and became a
professional ballerina. She made her debut at the
Paris Opera at the age of nine in L'Eventail de
In 1932 George Balanchine saw her in
ballet class and engaged her for the Ballets Russes
de Monte Carlo as one of the three "Baby
Ballerinas." Although all three were beautiful,
Tamara was also glamorous and a real
"diva." She came to be called "The
Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet" and from then
on, performed in ballets for the next 40 years.
Balanchine choreographed the part of
the Young Girl for Tamara in his ballet Cotillon, and
also starred her in his Concurrence and Le Bourgeois
also worked closely with Tamara in the creation of
many of his ballets. She played the part of the Top
in his Jeux d'Enfants (which can be seen on film at
the Library of the Performing Arts Dance Collection).
Balanchine created a role for her in his Le Palais de
Cristal (now Symphony in C) in 1947 at the Paris
As resident ballerina or as guest artist with many
companies, Tamara danced most of the classic
ballerina's roles in the ballet repertoire, partnered
by many of the great male dancers of her day.
made her Broadway debut in 1939 and
her film debut in 1943's Days of Glory
(1944), opposite Gregory
Peck. That same year, Tamara married
the film's producer, Casey
Tamara also made movies: The Private Life
of Sherlock Holmes, Tonight We Sing
(where she played Anna Pavlova),
Deep in My Heart and in Alfred
Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.
Tamara died on May 29, 1996, in Santa Monica,