Nana Gollner, prima ballerina, was born in El Paso on January 8, 1919. She began ballet training at age four as treatment for infantile paralysis. She continued dance lessons after moving to Los Angeles, making her first professional appearance there at age fourteen in a Max Reinhardt production. In her teen years Gollner also performed with the de Basil and Blum companies of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. During the 1940s she appeared alternately with the American Ballet Theatre, de Basil's Original Ballet Russe, and the London-based International Ballet. With the latter she became the first twentieth-century North American to gain prima ballerina roles in a European company. While best known for performances in classical ballets such as Giselle and Swan Lake, she also performed memorable parts in works by modern choreographers Anton Dolin, George Balanchine, and Antony Tudor. Gollner married Paul Eilif Petersen, a Danish member of the Ballet Russe, in 1942 in Mexico. Frequent dance partners, they used the professional names of Nana Gollner and Paul Petroff. The couple had two sons. In 1948 Gollner and Petroff formed their own company and toured Europe and South America. In 1950 Gollner returned to New York to perform major roles with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, later known as American Ballet Theatre. The Gollner-Petroff company resumed touring in 1951 and 1952. In 1952 Gollner and her family moved to Belgium, where she and Petroff subsequently taught ballet. In 1977 they opened the Academy of Classical Russian Ballet in Antwerp. Gollner died in Antwerp on August 30, 1980, after a long illness.
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Barbara Naomi Cohen-Stratyner, Biographical Dictionary of Dance (New York: Schirmer, 1982). Dance Magazine, March 1981.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 19, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
September 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
August 5, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: