Michel Fokine

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Fokine, Michel

(mēshĕl` fōkēn`, Rus. fô`kyĭn), 1880–1942, Russian-American choreographer and ballet dancer, b. Russia. He studied at the Imperial Ballet School (1889–98) and danced at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. In 1905 he created Le Cygne (The Dying Swan) for Pavlova to music of Saint-Saëns. He accompanied Sergei DiaghilevDiaghilev, Sergei Pavlovich
, 1872–1929, Russian ballet impresario and art critic, grad. St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, 1892. In 1898 he founded an influential journal, Mir Iskusstva [The World of Art].
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 to Paris in 1909 and was choreographer for his company until 1914. Fokine, considered the founder of modern ballet, based his choreography on the old system of training but eliminated rigid traditions, thus paving the way for the new freedom to come with expressionism. He emigrated in 1919 to the United States, where he formed several companies and conducted a ballet school. In 1932 he became a U.S. citizen. Among the approximately 70 ballets created by Fokine are Les Sylphides (1909), Prince Igor (1909), The Firebird (1910), Scheherazade (1910), The Spectre of the Rose (1916), and Petrouchka (1916).

Bibliography

See his memoirs (ed. by A. Chujoy, tr. 1961).

Fokine, Michel

 

Born Apr. 11 (23), 1880, in St. Petersburg; died Aug. 23, 1942, in New York. Russian ballet dancer, choreographer, and teacher.

In 1898, Fokine graduated from the St. Petersburg Theater School, where he had trained under N. G. Legat. He performed as a soloist at the Mariinskii Theater. From 1901 to 1911 he taught at the St. Petersburg Theater School; his pupils included E. P. Gerdt and L. V. Lopukhov. He made his choreographic debut in 1905. From 1909 to 1912 and again in 1914, Fokine performed with the Russian Seasons Abroad in Paris and London. Leaving Russia in 1918, he settled permanently in the United States in 1921.

Fokine sought to reform the ballet theater. He gave each of his productions a certain uniqueness, creating ballets that rested entirely on their choreography. Fokine drew upon elements of folk dance and kindred arts. Classical dance-steps were combined with free movement and new modes of expression. Fokine’s aesthetics included stylization and the reproduction of dances depicted on ancient vases and in old engravings. At the same time he always strove to relate to the contemporary audience. Each of Fokine’s ballets was psychologically meaningful, dramatically tense, and theatrically effective. Through the use of symphonic music not composed for ballet, he developed the concept of symphonic dance. He also developed the plotless ballet as an independent genre based on musical and choreographic principles. Reality in Fokine’s ballets was a bacchanalian festival disrupted by loneliness, ruined hopes, or the doom brought about by uncurbed passions.

Fokine, a graceful dancer with a light, high leap, danced principal roles in numerous classical ballets. His productions at the Mariinskii Theater included Le Pavilion d’Armide (music by Cherepnin), Une Nuit d’Egypte (music by Arend), Chopiniana (music by Chopin), and Islamei (music by Balakirev). His ballets for the Russian Seasons Abroad included Polovtsian Dances (music from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor), The Firebird (music by Stravinsky), Petrushka (music by Stravinsky), and Daphnis and Chloë (music by Ravel). For Pavlova, he choreographed The Dying Swan to the music of Saint-Saëns. Fokine was associated with the Paris Opera in 1934 and 1935 and with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1936 to 1939. From 1923 to 1942 he headed a ballet studio in New York. Fokine wrote his memoirs and articles on ballet.

WORKS

Umiraiushchii lebed. Introductory article by G. Dobrovol’skaia. Leningrad, 1961.
Protiv techeniia, Vospominaniia baletmeistera. Stat’i, pis’ma. (Introductory article by Iu. I. Slonimski.) Leningrad-Moscow, 1962.

REFERENCES

Ivanov, I. M. Fokin. Petrograd, 1923.
Stravinsky, I. Khronika moei zhizni. Leningrad, 1962. (Translated from French.)
Krasovskaia, V. M. Russkii baletnyi teatr nachala XX veka, Leningrad, 1971.
Beaumont, C. Michel Fokine and His Ballets. London, 1935.
References in periodicals archive ?
Some of these popular stories inspired Russian composer Nicolay Rimsky-Korsakov to compose a symphonic suite titled "Scheherazade" in 1888, and that music in turn inspired a sensational 1910 Paris ballet production by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russe, with choreography by Michael Fokine.
The original, choreographed by Michael Fokine, was premiered at the Paris Opera back in 1910.
Who could have foreseen that 19-year-old Michael Fokine was going to create his first ballet in five years' time, that 27-year-old Serge Diaghilev, newly appointed as artistic adviser to the Maryinsky Theatre, was in nine years' time going to present an eye-opening season of Russian opera and ballet in Paris?