The family escaped from Russia to Shanghai, China, where they lived for a year, then moved to Cairo, Egypt. After spending time in refugee camps, the family settled in Paris, France, where there was a large Russian émigré community. Tamara was given piano lessons and studied ballet with Olga Preobrajenska.
"Preobrajenska was my first and only permanent teacher," Toumanova said. "I think always of Madame Preobrajenska not only as my beloved, never-to-be-forgotten teacher, but my immortal friend."
Toumanova made her debut at the Paris Opera at the age of ten in the children's ballet L'Éventail de Jeanne (for which ten French composers wrote the music). George Balanchine saw her in ballet class and engaged her for de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as one of the three "baby ballerinas." She came to be called "The Black Pearl of the Russian Ballet."
Balanchine choreographed the part of the Young Girl for Toumanova in his ballet Cotillon, and had her star in his Concurrence and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.
Léonide Massine also worked closely with Toumanova in the creation of many of his ballets. She played the part of the Top in his Jeux d'Enfants. Balanchine created a role for her in his Le Palais de Cristal (now Symphony in C) in 1947 at the Paris Opera.
In the United States, Toumanova appeared in the movies The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Tonight We Sing (playing Anna Pavlova), Deep in My Heart, Days of Glory, and Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain.
With their wispy romantic tutus.(anniversary gallery: GREAT BALLERINAS)(Tamara Toumanova, Margot Fonteyn, Gelsey Kirkland)(Brief article)
Nov 01, 2007; [ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED] WITH THEIR WISPY ROMANTIC TUTUS, highly arched feet, and deep dramatic eyes, celebrated ballerinas have...