Mathilde Kschessinska (Kschessinskaya) was born in Ligova, Russia, in 1872. She studied at the St Petersburg Imperial Ballet School with Ivanov, Johansson and Cecchetti. Graduated into the Mariinsky Theatre in 1890. Prima Ballerina Assoluta in 1895. She was a dancer of brilliant technique, dramatic gifts and great personal charm and beauty. She had close links with the Imperial family and later she married the Grand Duke Andrei, nephew of Tsar Nikolai II.
She was the first Russian Aurora and the first Russian dancer to perform the 32 fouettés in Swan Lake. She created Kitri in Gorsky's 1902 production of Don Quixote. She danced mainly in Russia, but also performed with the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1909 and with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1911-12.
After the revolution she left Russia and settled on the French Riviera. In 1929 she moved to Paris where she opened a ballet school and taught many famous dancers. Tatiana Riabouchinska was her pupil.