Lydia Sokolova Archive

Scope and Content

A mixed collection of documents including programmes for galas and performances, scripts, contracts, correspondence and photographs relating to stage and television performances. There are press clippings, manuscripts of articles, and notes as well as other material from the Sotheby's auctions of Ballets Russes material in the 1960s for which Sokolova arranged the groups. There is also some correspondence with Leon Woizikowsky.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lydia Sokolova (1896-1974) was born in Wanstead, as Hilda Tansley Munnings on 4 March 1896. She trained at the Stedman's Academy in London and with Anna Pavlova, Michael Mordkin and Pavlova’s great character dancer and pedagogue, Aleksander Shireyev. Later she studied with Enrico Cecchetti and Nicolas Legat. After touring in the USA with the All-Star Imperial Russian Ballet (1911-12) she danced in London and Europe with Theodore Kosloff’s Imperial Russian Ballet. In 1913 she joined the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, one of the first English girls to become a full member. She became one of the company's principal character dancer until it disbanded in 1929. Having initially danced with Diaghilev’s company as Munningsova but Diaghilev changed this, giving her the name Lydia Sokolova in 1915. In 1914-1915, before the Ballets Russes reformed, Sokolova danced with Nicholas Kremnev in British music halls, and for a season after the collapse of The Sleeping Princess in 1922 she performed with Léonide Massine and Lydia Lopokova’s groups before returning to Diaghilev.

Sokolova was primarily a character dancer and her roles included a Nymph in Nijinsky's L’Après-midi d’un Faune and creating the Apple woman in Till Eulenspiegel (1916). She worked very closely with Léonide Massine creating roles in Boutique Fantasque (1919), Le Chant du Rossignol (1920) and the Miller's Wife in Le Tricorne (1919) although it was performed by Karsavina at the premiere and the Chosen Maiden in Le Sacré du Printemps (1920). She also worked closely with Bronislava Nijinska dancing the Hostess in Les Biches and creating La Perlouse in Le Train bleu (both 1924), Romeo and Juliet (1926), and in George Balanchine's Le Bal (1929). Ill-heath prevented her continuing to dance regularly and she turned to teaching and coaching in England (including assisting Woizikowski with the staging of L’Apres-midi d’un faune for the Ballet Club in 1931). She danced with Woizikowski's company in London in 1935 and Lydia Kyasht's Ballet de la Jeunesse Anglaise in 1939. She returned to the stage to perform in Massine's revival of The Good-Humoured Ladies for the Royal Ballet in 1962.

Sokolova was married to Nicholas Kremnev (1917), had a long relationship with Léon Woizikovsky throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s, and married Ronald Erskine Mahon (mid-1930s) who survived her. Her daughter, Natasha, was born in 1917. Sokolova gave considerable support to Richard Buckle with his 1954 Diaghilev exhibition and in establishing his Friends of the Museum of the Performing Arts . She was invited by Buckle to ‘stage’ dances and groupings by dancers for the major Sotheby's Ballets Russes auctions in 1968 and 1969. She died at Sevenoaks on 5 February 1974.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Blythe House Archive and Library Study Room by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Appraisal Information

This collection was appraised in line with the collection management policy.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Material

See also the core collections of the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance. Material relating to Lydia Sokolova, as well as 20th century ballet in general may be found in several collections, including the biographical, productions, company and photographs files.

Please ask for details.

Corporate Names