Nicolai was deeply affected by the loss of his brother and soul mate. Who was more than that, his artistic counterpart. Nevertheless, his fame was assured; but he handled fame uneasily. With the retirement of Marius Petipa, veteran creator of the Maryinsky’s classical repertoire, and the death of Christian Johansson after his long tenure as Professor of the Class of Perfection, Nicolai Legat stood unchallenged as their natural successor. He became Ballet Master and Principal Choreographer and continued to dance leading roles; but a thorn in his side was the young Michel Fokine whose revolutionary ideas and artistic flair were alien to Legat’s traditional zeal.

Legat’s choreographies have not survived although it is known that his ballets were full of flowing dance and that his arrangements were musical and in good taste. His greatness is remembered for the brilliance and logic of his teaching which he passed on but which, today, is uncodified and unrecorded. His dance had lyrical qualities and effortless ease of the French School which, during his collaboration with Johansson, had been refined and perfected, a magical movement and unique in the whole spectrum of ballet.  

After 25 years service in the Imperial Theatre, he resigned his position at the Maryinsky and was rewarded with a handsome Benefit and a gold cigarette case from the Tzar Nicholas II. About this time, he became infatuated with a young pupil, Nadine Nicolaeva (Briger), and seeking a divorce from his wife Tchumakova, he made Nadine his partner and eloped with her abroad to make a new life outside Russia. Legat had already danced abroad with Pavlova, Kschesinska and Preobrajenska with great success, but now he danced with Nadine Nicolaeve in Music Halls in London and Paris. Caught by the outbreak of World War I in Paris, Legat and his young mistress made their way to London, and by a hazardous route, eventually arrived back in Petrograd in the spring of 1915.

Finding no place for himself and Nadine Nicolaeva in the Maryinsky Ballet, he taught in a private ballet school and produced ballets at Narodny Dom ( People’s Theatre ) in which Nadine danced the leading parts. In 1919 he eventually obtained an official divorce from his wife, and Nadine Nicolaeva became his third wife.

Life was fraught with peril during the days of the Revolution and dancers had to scrape a living by any means possible. They toured for troops and, for a time, he became ballet Master at the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow, but as Nicolai said “ I was a very small cog in a very big wheel”. If life had turned sour for Nicolai, it was even worse for the ambitious Nadine, who had been refused admission to the Maryinsky Ballet and although accepted by the Bolshoi as a soloist, had failed to be accepted as a ballerina, despite her phenomenal technique and acrobatic skills.