CWRU Links
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

SEMENOFF, NIKOLAI PROKOFIEVITCH

SEMENOFF, NIKOLAI PROKOFIEVITCH

SEMENOFF, NIKOLAI PROKOFIEVITCH (12 Mar. 1881-7 July 1932), once ballet master of the Imperial Moscow Theater, conducted a dance studio in Cleveland in the years prior to his suicide in protest of "the slander and persecution of the ballet." A native of Moscow, he graduated from the Imperial Russian school in 1899 with the title of "artiste." After working as ballet master with the Moscow Art Theater, he joined Serge Diaghileff's Ballet Russe, serving as regisseur, or administrator, for choreographer Michel Fokine. Prior to the Russian Revolution in 1917, he was ballet master at the Imperial Moscow Theater. Semenoff, who claimed that his entire family was killed by the Bolsheviks, fled from Russia in 1921. He walked across Poland and eventually reached Paris, where he remained 2 years. He arrived in the United States in 1923 as a member of Nikita Bialeff's Chauve-Souris, a touring Russian vaudeville show. Semenoff came to Cleveland in the mid-1920s to conduct the Martha Lee dancing school. Within 2 years he opened his own studio, the Imperial Russian School of the Dance, in Carnegie Hall on Huron Rd. He faithfully patronized local cultural events and placed ads in concert programs. By the early 1930s, however, his livelihood was threatened by the Depression and the vogue of modern dance. Semenoff was dismayed by the opening of a modern dance department at the CLEVELAND INSTITUTE OF MUSIC and the commissioning of modern dance choreography by the STADIUM OPERA CO. After closing his dance studio, he poured out his frustrations in a letter to Fokine and threw himself over Niagara Falls in Canada. He left no survivors, nor was the body recovered.