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Blue Bird- Russian vs Royal Ballet version


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The above has always puzzled me.

While the Russians show Florine as a perfect princess, without fluttering arms, but only listening to her Bluebird, the Royal Ballet versions on video at least (Sibley, Benjamin) portray her as a kind of little bird, with lots of "fluttering arms" and wrists.

I just wonder why has this difference arisen in the first place, and who was responsible for the change. Also, of course, I would like to know which version is the closest to the originally staged by Petipa at the premiere.

I would value any feedback on the above, as I am dancing the role right now.


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No fluttering! Princess Florine is a human who has been imprisoned in a tower (I forget by whom, but Mel knows!) and the bluebird is teaching her to fly, hence Florine's "listening" gestures. There are many little stories flying about (forgive the pun) regarding this pas de deux, but from what Mel has said, that is the original one, although there's more detail to it than what I have posted.

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Thank you Hans for the info. I have read Mel's very informative article on "The Sleeping Beauty", but could not get that information.

So, I wonder who was responsible for starting to confuse Florine with a bird? As RB dances it today....

The first time I was taught the role (by an ex dancer at the Marquis de Cuevas company, who was my teacher in Uruguay, and who was prima ballerina at our national ballet), I was taught to do lots of fluttering - I even remember that I was encourage to practice the "tremor like" movements with my hands, and that I was supposed to do it througout the variation (at a later stage, once I had mastered it).

Then I saw the videos by the Russians and was totally confused.......


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Princess Florine is a lot like Saint Barbara - a virgin imprisoned in a tower by her father. She is very lonely, because not even her jailers are allowed to talk to her. She gets relief by talking to the Bluebird who comes to visit her, but must migrate in the winter - the original story had him going to China for the winter. When he comes back in the spring, he asks Florine why she has to stay in the tower, and why doesn't she come and fly away with him. She says that she can't, that she doesn't know how, and he says, "Oh, it's easy, listen and follow." The Russian versions that came out of Russia from before the Revolution still had the flutterings. The ones that came out later had been affected by "Marxist-Leninist Realism", and No Magic or Mystic Religion Allowed.

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In the film "Markova, la legende" Alicia Markova coaches a POB dancer on the solo. She says she learned the variation from Egorova and that the story she learned is that Princess Florine is in love with the Bluebird and she wants to fly so she can follow him.

She also says there is a difference between the bluebird who flies (here she makes large fluttering movements) and Florine who wishes to copy him so that she can fly away (she makes less distinct fluttering movements) The syncopation of the music is supposed to reflect Florine's attempts to fly ("It's all in the music", she says)

There is no analysis on fluttering, but her hands flutter while marking some passages... Then Markova comments that this is the style of the variation & that it is becoming lost.

There is also a small story about the feathers (mentioned on the other thread). When Diaghilev saw the young Markova in costume he deemed the feathers too vulgar for her and send her out to buy new ones. Bird of Paradise feathers were, apparently, at that time, availlable even in Manchester so she managed to procure some and dance that night.

I have a question for Mel:

If magic was such a no-no for the Soviets how did Swan Lake survive (apart from the end, of course)? I mean there's a magician and enchanted maidens in it. And what about Sleeping beauty? There is an evil fairy and a spell at the center of the story. Why would they be so particular as to change details in a specific variation and not mind, for example, the swan-arms in swan lake or a girl who sleeps 100 years because of a spell? I don't understand this...

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Yes, in the original story, her name is Florine. However, the version of the fairytale I've heard is different and comes from a book of French Fairy Tales. Princess Florine's step-mother is an evil Queen (like in Snow White) who has an ugly daughter named Troutina. The Evil Queen invites princes and suitors to meet Troutina, but they are always captivated by Florine. A particular prince meets Florine and pledges his love to her. This infuriates the Evil Queen, so she sends a fake message Florine to the Prince asking him to meet her at her window. He meets her and tells Florine that he would like to marry her and puts an engagement ring on her finger. But in the darkness he could not tell that it was actually Troutina in disguise. The Evil Queen tells the Prince that he must marry Troutina since the ring is a symbol of a binding agreement. He refuses, so the queen has a sorcerer turn the Prince into a bluebird and hold Florine captive in a tower so that she will no longer have a problem with her stealing potential suitors from Troutina. However, Florine is still in love with the Prince and he comes to visit her every night. She sits at her window listening for his song.

I know what you mean about the tremor like movements with the hands. I could only get my right hand to do them, so I just had to leave them out. (It's actually very difficult. I think it might be like rolling your tongue, something that some people are just genetically predisposed to.) I'm actually going to be restaging a version similar to the Royal version soon. It's the Sadler Welles pre-Royal version, actually. The only thing I'm changing is I'm taking out the ending leap off stage at the end of the Coda.


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I'm actually going to be restaging a version similar to the Royal version soon.  It's the Sadler Welles pre-Royal version, actually.  The only thing I'm changing is I'm taking out the ending leap off stage at the end of the Coda.

Curious as to your choice, Crispy. Would you care to explain your thinking and describe the final image? Thanks!

And welcome to BalletTalk! :) We'd love it if you'd tell us a bit about yourself in our Welcome Forum.

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I'm actually going to be restaging a version similar to the Royal version soon.  It's the Sadler Welles pre-Royal version, actually.  The only thing I'm changing is I'm taking out the ending leap off stage at the end of the Coda.


Cris, so would this be closer to Sergeyev staging for De Valois in the 30s? Or am I going back too far or on the wrong track altogether?

In any case I'd love to see it and wish you all the best of luck.


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Well this is the version I was coached on by a dancer who danced with the Royal Ballet during the De Valois / Ashton transition. It is not the current Royal version. I believe the only arm fluttering at Florina does is after the assemble with her back toward the audience and before the promenade in seconde. Then again at the end of the pas before the bluebird lift when Florine lets go of the Bluebird's hand and balances in second.

The girls have a separate variations coach, so I will not be setting Florine's variation, so I don't know if they will retain any of the fluttering there. However, this particular variations coach danced under the direction of previously mentioned ex-Royal dancer.

Why no leap off stage at the end? Because the artistic director doesn't like to finish with the dancers off stage. We are also not using an orchestra and our recording doesn't have the appropiate ritardando at the end.

Now I noticed in Nureyev's version, they finish with a "do-se-do" type move with Florine finishing in arabesque, supporting herself on the bluebird's shoulder. I'm thinking that will work for the requested ending.

In any case, I need to get my butt in shape if I'm going to be a blue Mexican jumping bean in a few months.


Edited by Crispy
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The King has always been Florestan the eighth or some other number and now that you mention it, only the Australian Ballet's version has the prince named Florimund. All the others I've seen I believe they've been Desire. Sorry for the confusion.

I think the nomenclature is more spotty than that. ABT shows Florimund in their archives, also on the telecast of the complete ballet in the late 70s, Florimund is used.

The Royal Ballet uses Florimund extensively, as far as I can remember, going back to the performances I saw in the 60s and 70s, the Prince was Florimund.

Also their two DVDs show Florimund.

Although I've not seen it yet, the Netherlands production uses Florimund on their DVD from a few years back.

So I guess it depends where you are and who put together the production.

(The POB seems to use Desiree, that may be because that was the name Nureyev

knew from the Kirov production)

But to add to the confusion, I think when the ballet was first staged in England Desiree was used. I'm pretty sure on this, but they didn't use this name very long.

ABT used Prince Charming back in 1941(?)


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I tried a few searches last night to see if Perrault had given the prince and/or the king a name, and after a couple of hours (and getting sidetracked in the usual websearch diversions), I came up empty. This may require an actual trip to the library -- Children's Division, at that!

Speaking of sidetracked . . . Isn't this thread about Florine and her Bluebird in their various balletic guises?

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getting back to the original question:

No fluttering!......?

i am not going to refer to any books here - rather to my memory over years of watching and learning and reading...(and i have danced this, too). i say - and this is just me - that it makes sense, to me, that if she is learning to fly, she would be making attempts to fly. so, the moments where one may be directed to flutter - don't ask me now to recall at WHICH moments! - it makes sense to me to flutter...within reason.

and re the prince: my perspective is that it is mostly only the russians who call him Desire; elsewhere he is Florimund (flower of the world). for fascinating insight into the whole story and its psychological ramifications, refer to Bruno Bettelheim's book, the title of which escapes me at the moment, but i'm sure you can work it out, by browsing at Amazon (via the banner, of course!).

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according to Francine Du Plessix Gray, when the future Louis XIV was Dauphin he was known in 18th c. France as "Louis le Désiré"

The long marriage of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria (they're the monarchs at the center of Dumas' Muskeeteer series) was childless almost to the end. Given the personality and apparently ambivalent sexuality of Louis XIII and the turbulent nature of his relationship with his wife, there was some despair of their ever producing an heir.

The birth of Louis (future XIV) and his brother were considered to be something of miracle -- which secured the succession to the throne, kept XIII's unstable brother OFF it, and prevented (or at least delayed) civil war.

Thus "Desired One" has important implications for the welfare of the entire state as well as something more personal.

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