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Since the Kirov brought a whole program of Fokine to London so recently -- and has been traveling with that program -- I thought it time to give Fokine his due.

What do you think of his ballets? Which have you seen? Do you think there's any likelihood that a body of his work will be revived/survived?

This is a choreographer who made thousands of people in Western Europe fall in love with ballet, who was a passionate reformer and theorist about ballet, whom many believe is one of the greatest choreographers ever, yet we seldom see his works today. As late as the 1950s, I've read articles maintaining that "Petrouchka" was the greatest ballet of the 20th century.

What do we think about Fokine today?

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Fokine is one of the immortals. With the miniature 'The Swan'-- one of the few true icons-like images in ballet -- alone, he secures his place in the pantheon of great choreographers. 'Chopiniana' is another iconic work, with images of the ballet seen often in the popular 'mass culture' (such as the insurance company commercial 10+ years ago showing a ballerina- sylph striking the pose with hand-to-ear..."when company-x talks, people listen"). Of course, Fokine gave us much, much more...'Pavillon d'Armide' (my personal fave, revived in Russia by Dolgushin a few years ago), 'Petrushka,' 'Carnaval,' 'Firebird,' 'Spectre de la Rose,' 'Prince Igor,' 'Schherazade, etc. Again--'Scheherazade' made it to the pop-culture status, inspiring women to wear Orientaliste garb, redecorate homes a-la-Bakst, even inspiring a mock-ballet by Balanchine in a Broadway musical, 'Princess Zenobia' in 'On Your Toes.' And what about Nijinsky's great leap through the window in 'Spectre'? As much as I adore Ashton & Balanchine, I don't think that there ever existed a choreographer -- except for Petipa -- who has made his choreographic images 'stick' in the minds of the general public as has Fokine. I mean...if an insurance commercial uses the image of, say, Apollo & the three muses, do you think that Mr. and Mrs. Joe Public 'get it' & know that it is derived from a famous ballet? Maybe in NYC... :) (oops - wrong thread!)

[ 07-09-2001: Message edited by: Jeannie ]

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Well, if Balanchine is my "spire", Fokine is my "foundation". Les Sylphides is still the most perfect of ballets. My interest was fired by watching Firebird (with Markova), Scheherazade (with Danilova and Franklin), Carnaval (with Harold Lang), Petrouchka (with Massine). Aside from "Spectre" and "Bluebeard", "Swan" and "Igor", I haven't seen any of his other works. All of these works can appeal to today's audience with modern costuming. One of my wishes is to see "Sylphides" performed as a leotard ballet.

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One of my wishes is to see "Sylphides" performed as a leotard ballet.

You do know that NYCB did that in the early seventies, I think. It wasn't a great success, I believe, at least with the critics.

I remember this used to be a "signature" ABT ballet, and they used to do a lovely job with it. I would be a little apprehensive about seeing them do it today.

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I used to want to slip the conductor (at ABT) $25 and say, "For God's sake, speed up the tempo!" But I saw some lovely performances. Slow, but lovely.

Did you see the NYCB practice clothes experiment, atm? You had your chance!

Fokine was enormously important -- and a good lesson in how someone who did turn the world upside down and was The Man can disappear in an instant, at the whim of another (he was fired in his prime and he never got another company; he wandered, a freelancer, for most of his life.) I think the generation of choreographers that followed were very much influenced, and one could argue that he's the father of modern expressionistic ballet (although I don't think that would have been his intent; in a funny way, he was a classicist, a Noverrian classicist). I think for 20 years, most choreographers had to think twice before putting a woman on pointe. (Not Balanchine, who seems to have been immune to Fokine and cared not a whit for his "reforms," which can also be seen as anti-dancing.)

One of the great moments in ballet history I missed, by accident of year of birth, was the meeting John Martin arranged between Fokine and Martha Graham in a public forum. It must have seemed a great idea at the time :) (They didn't get on, and Fokine was moved to tell Martha that he thought her dancing was ugly.)

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Too bad! - I missed my chance!--I did not see the leotard "Sylphides" (I will settle for "Dances at a Gathering" costumes). I have seen some wonderful and some not-so-wonderful "Sylphides"--but that is the ONE ballet that no company can ruin for me. The groupings, combination of steps, the over-all patterns always come through.

Maybe Fokine was "The Man who disappeared in an instant" because Massine was busily melding himself into Fokine--when Fokine was gone, we already had a replacement in the works. Unfortunately, not so for Balanchine!

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It at once became obvious that in Fokine there

were creative possibilities quite unlike those of

old St.Petersburg masters of ballet.Leaving Marius


The difference between Fokine and other ballet masters was not the tendency of his art,it was a

difference of quality,he was more talented and saw

more clearly and more deeply,while being more

daring.Fokine did not aim at destroying existing

things,he had a very real respect for the old school,the school which he owed his own mastery.

In Fokine art he improved on the past without

casting it aside,he created with simplicity and

never pandered to the new "isms".In this respect

Fokine was quite opposite of Nijinsky and Diaghileff.

Prince Peter Lieven in his book

"The Birth of the Ballet Russes"

Prince Peter Lieven in his book"The Birth of the Ballet Russes"

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I saw a very interesting documentary last night, "Fighting Over Fokine." It detailed Isabelle Fokine's attempts to set her grandfather's work in more authentic versions on the Kirov. I know very little about Ms. Fokine. Is she considered a reliable stager? Neither Clement Crisp nor Baronova seemed to think much of her.

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Who could argue with Clement Crisp AND Baranova? :)

Robert Greskovic did an interview with her years ago which we ran in DanceView -- it's another on my list to put onto the site. As I remember it, she had minimal -- like, watched her father, Fokine's son, stage one production one afternoon -- experience in staging before making a mid-career change and beginning to stage Fokine's ballets.

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To be fair, we can't blame Ms. Fokine for THAT. It was an experiment Mr. B did back in the 1970s -- to show the choreography. (He was on record as liking the other version, so I don't think he meant to hurt it :) ) I think SAB revived it for the same reason -- to show the choreography, and the link between Balanchine and Fokine; both were sons of Petipa, even though both took different paths.

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