Olga Lepeshinskaya, 92, the Bolshoi Ballet's prima ballerina for three decades during the Soviet times, died Saturday. The ITAR-Tass news agency reported that she died in her Moscow apartment in her sleep.

Ms. Lepeshinskaya was born to a noble family in Kiev in 1916. When she first tried to enter the Bolshoi choreographic school, she was rejected.

The school admitted her shortly afterward, in 1925, and Ms. Lepeshinskaya graduated in 1933, immediately joining the Bolshoi Ballet. She was rumored to be the favorite ballerina of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and, on four occasions, received the coveted Stalin Prize.

Ms. Lepeshinskaya recalled in an interview published in the daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta in 2006 that Stalin once affectionately called her "dragonfly."

As Bolshoi's prima, Ms. Lepeshinskaya danced Kitri in

Don Quixote

, Tao Hoa in

The Red Poppy

, Jeanne in

The Flame of Paris

, Aurora in

Sleeping Beauty

and Masha in

The Nutcracker

, among other parts.

Ms. Lepeshinskaya married Soviet Gen. Alexei Antonov in 1956. In 1962, when her husband died, she temporarily lost her sight. "During the funerals, I had a nervous breakdown, and everything went black before my eyes," she recalled in the 2006 interview.

Bolshoi's premier dancer, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, said Ms. Lepeshinskaya's death was a "great loss."

Bolshoi's prima, Svetlana Zakharova, said dancers of today would find it impossible to match Ms. Lepeshinskaya's fiery manner. "No one can repeat her tempo now," Zakharova said on NTV television.

- AP