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Mikhail Fokine



Mikhail Fokine was born in St Petersburg in May 1880 and studied at the Imperial Theatre School until 1898. He then graduated into the ballet company of the Maryinsky Theatre, began teaching at the school in 1902 and was promoted to First Soloist in 1904. He choreographed his first ballet in 1905 and his first major work, Le Pavillon d'Armide, with music by Nicolai Tcherepnin in 1907.

He believed passionately that ballet should be a serious and integrated artform, and not the formulaic dance entertainment he felt it had become. He summarised these beliefs in July 1914 when he wrote to The Times, outlining five principals: choreography should be appropriate to the subject of the ballet and not of a uniform classical language; dance and mime that were not dramatically expressive should not be used; expressive mime should not be restricted to conventional hand gestures; ensembles should be used to express dramatic atmosphere, not just for decorative purposes; dance, design and music should hold equal weight within a production.

These ideas were not welcomed at the Maryinsky and, in 1909, he accepted an offer from the impressario Sergei Diaghilev to join his Ballets Russes as a choreographer. There he was able to put his ideas into practise. His choreography from this period includes Les Sylphides and Polovtsian Dances (1909), Scheherazade and The Firebird (1910), Le Spectre de la rose and Petrushka (1911), and Daphnis et Chloé and Papillon (1912).

After a disagreement with Diaghilev in 1914 he left the Ballets Russes, leaving Russia for good in 1918. From this point, until his death in August 1942, he worked as a freelance choreographer as well as taking short-term positions with ballet companies and staging works alongside his wife, Vera. His freelance works include The Sorcerer's Apprentice (Petrograd, 1916), Boléro (Paris, 1935), L'Épreuve d'amour (Monte Carlo, 1936), Don Juan (London, 1937) and Bluebeard (Mexico City, 1941).
Kin.

Tzu-Chao Chou; photo: Bill Cooper

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