Influential Croatian women – Mia Čorak Slavenska

Croatia has a long and steady history of many classical artists of all kinds contributing to the world of art. Composers, painters, sculptors, and writers. Most of them you will hear of are men of big careers and of big reputation who co-created the culture and art we witness and study about to this day.
But in a long line of influential men, Croatia has always had even more astonishing women who had to work extra hard and still managed to make worldwide careers and recognizable names all by themselves which paved a way for women in Croatia today to hold some of the highest positions in the country, such as our President and former Prime Minister as well.
In this short series of posts named simply”Influential Croatian Women”, we will present you some of the prominent women in Croatian history in various fields.





First in a row is the magical princess of not only Croatian but world’s ballet world – Mia Čorak Slavenska, the first prima ballerina in Croatia.

Mia Čorak Slavenska was born on February 20, 1916, in Slavonski Brod in Slavonia region. Young girl Mia started dancing at four years old. Her first professional ballet training was in Zagreb, and her dance studies continued in Vienna when they realized how much talent this girl had. Already at the age of twelve, she began to work on independent programs, and with thirteen already being a soloist with eighteen prizes of the Zagreb Ballet. After completing her studies in Vienna, Mia Čorak begins an impressive international career (for starters, she wins the first prize at the Berlin Dance Olympics in 1936), then performs at the Paris Opera and Monte Carlo, where she joins the famous Russian ballet Mjasinov.





And as she came to America, she has instantly attracted great interest and where received great criticisms. Her dancing majesty was even more accentuated by her overwhelming red hair and the appearance she radiated, somewhat like Rita Hayworth.
Mia also starred on the film “Death of the Ball”, which won her first prize at the Paris Film Competition.


In the United States, Čorak Slavenska founded the troupe Ballet Variante (1944) and the Slavenian-Franklin Ballet (1952, with F. Franklin), with which she set the ballet “A streetcar named Desire” (according to the play of T. Williams with famous Marlon Brando playing the lead in the screening of the play). In the period 1954-55. she became the prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. In addition to the role of the classical repertoire, she also emphasized the choreography of Leonide Massine, Serge Lifar and the stylizations of Croatian folk dances. Shee also performed in the ballet movie “The death of Swan” (La Mort du Cygne, 1937, by J. Benoît-Lévy. After World War II, Mia got married to Kurt Neumann, an Austrian actor, with whom she had one child, daughter Mary.






In New York, in 1960, he opened a ballet studio and became increasingly dedicated to pedagogical work. After three years in teaching, in 1963 she finally left the theater and active dancing career. By the early 1980s, for almost 25 years, she taught at the Los Angeles Institute of Arts, after which she retired. As a sign of this great Croatian artist, her hometown, Slavonski Brod, set up a memorial plaque in 2004, on the house she was born.

To this day, so many aspiring young dancers from all over the world live her persona and her achievements through generations of teachers and ballet fans who will always remember the name of one Croatian woman from a small town in Slavonia – Mia Čorak Slavenska!


Ana Plevko

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