Born: March 17, 1937;

Died: December 11, 2021.

GALINA Samsova, who has died aged 84, was an inspiring figure in the history of Scottish Ballet. In 1991 she took over running the company from the founding director, Peter Darrell, and her virtuoso and sophisticated sense of dance enhanced its international reputation.

Samsova expanded the company’s repertoire with stunning productions of the Tchaikovsky classics but also carefully introduced new choreographers to make sure the company was alive to contemporary trends in the dance world.

Samsova had an expert eye for spotting and encouraging new talent, as evidenced by the time she was a judge at the Paris International Dance Competition. The 22-year-old Spanish dancer, Tamara Rojo, won the Gold Award and the Special Jury Award; Samsova immediately asked her to join Scottish Ballet. Rojo would go on to become a principal at the Royal Ballet and is now director of English National Ballet.

Rojo has warmly remembered her former boss. She said: “I worked under Galina’s leadership with Scottish Ballet; she was a generous, fun and knowledgeable director from whom I learned a lot.”

The company had experienced some difficult years after the death of Peter Darrell in 1987. There had been some turbulence in the management structure of the company and Samsova provided a clear vision for its future and for her own artistic responsibilities. She was initially appointed Guest Artistic Director in 1990; it was made permanent the following year.

One of her first productions for Scottish Ballet was Vakhtang Chabukiani and Alexander Krein’s Laurencia, followed by The Sleeping Beauty in 1994. That (and her Swan Lake, the following year) were designed by Jasper Conran and were visually spectacular with a grandness and eloquence in Samsova’s production. Both proved popular when the company toured Scotland and abroad.

The Swan Lake is now part of the company’s folklore. Such was the demand for the sewing of glitter on to the tutus the Friends of Scottish Ballet were asked to pick up their needles and thread and help out. Mary Brennan, dance critic of The Glasgow Herald, sewed on leaves for Aurora’s costume and beads for the White Cat’s tutu.

Christopher Hampson Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet, spoke fondly of his predecessor to The Herald. “Galina was an inspirational Artistic Director, and ushered in a generation of remarkable talent that took Scottish Ballet to the next level. Her leadership set high standards and was always delivered with her trademark mischievous humour.”

Galina Samsova was born in Stalingrad (now Volgograd), on March 14, 1937. She was very young when the Second World War broke out. Her parents sent her to ballet school in Kiev, Ukraine, and she joined the Kiev Opera Ballet in 1956. She later emigrated to Canada, where she became a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.

In 1963 Samsova danced in Cinderella at the International Dance Festival in Paris. She won the gold medal for a ballerina: Rudolf Nureyev won the gold medal for a male dancer.

Samsova then joined London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) as a principal and enjoyed considerable success, notably in Giselle.

In 1966 she undertook a series of guest appearances in South Africa ,dancing Cinderella. The role of Prince Charming was taken by Andre Prokovsky, who became her partner on stage and, in 1972, her second husband. They danced often together at LFB – notably in two Darrell ballets: Othello and La Péri.

In 1973 they formed their own company, New London Ballet, which toured widely, dancing the classics and works specially created for the company. Their ability to manage a small company with an imaginative repertoire soon established them on the international circuit.

The company were booked to appear at the Hong Kong Festival and Samsova had been able to engage Margot Fonteyn for several performances. When she learnt that Fonteyn had arrived at the hotel, she rushed to welcome her. There was no sign of the star; they were told that Fonteyn had already gone to the theatre. “And there we found Margot, doing a class on her own. She said she had to do it the minute she got off the plane. Otherwise, she seized up completely.”

In 1978 Samsova joined Birmingham Royal Ballet, as a principal where she is fondly remembered. In a statement it said: “Galina made an unforgettable impact on the Company during her ten years with us, including co-producing and starring in Sir Peter Wright’s epic 1981 Swan Lake. She also worked with Sir David Bintley on his Giselle in 1999.”

Samsova was much admired and respected throughout the ballet world for her strong technique and her mesmerising stage presence.

Oliver Rydout, Rehearsal Director at Scottish Ballet, told The Herald: “Galina gave the company clear direction and stability. Meeting her was like meeting royalty – intimidating initially, but she was so kind. Her keen eye for discovering and nurturing talent led to the brilliant careers of many dancers.”

In her retirement Samsova judged at many international competitions and assessed students at the Royal Ballet School.