Istvan Rabovsky, Ballet Dancer Who Defected From Hungary, Dies at 90

Istvan Rabovsky was born on March 31, 1930 in Szeged, Hungary, and raised partly in Gyomaendrod, a small village in the Hungarian plains. Ms. Itow said his parents were poor and sent him in the summer to live there with his grandmother, a midwife, and his grandfather, a handyman.

Istvan “enjoyed herding goats, geese and water buffalo as a child,” his daughter Lisa Rabbe wrote in a recent email. Because he liked to dance in the streets, she said, his family was persuaded to have him audition for the ballet school of the Budapest State Opera.

Ms. Itow said his parents could not support him and the ballet school arranged for Istvan to live with another family while he was a pupil.

In addition to Ms. Itow, a former ballet dancer, and Ms. Rabbe, Mr. Rabovsky is survived by another daughter, Emese Camanelli, three grandsons and a great-grandson.

As part of their training for the Budapest Ballet, Ms. Kovach and Mr. Rabovsky were selected by Galina Ulanova, the Bolshoi’s major ballerina, to study for six months in Leningrad in 1949-50. There, Ms. Kovach was taken under the wing of Agrippina Vaganova, Soviet Ballet’s most influential teacher, while Mr. Rabovsky worked with Piotr Gusev, who had danced in George Balanchine’s early choreography in the 1920s and became director of both the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballet companies.

Ms. Kovach and Mr. Rabovsky were usually adored by audiences but criticized by some American critics for sacrificing classical form to technical “tricks.” In interviews, however, they reminded readers of these eminent Russian mentors.

Mr. Rabovsky resented being called an “acrobat” and responded in “Leap Through A Curtain” a book about himself and Ms. Kovach: “ I have no apologies to make. I belong to the Russian school and I cannot change my views overnight. I feel that no real dancer can be reproached for being able to leap like an athlete.”

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