Michel Fokine and his Ballets

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You might know that Fokine’s ballet Les Sylphide also goes by the name of Chopinana. But did you know that Fokine originally created Chopinana as a ballet about a Polish wedding?!

Michel Fokine (1880-1942) exerted a profound influence on ballet in the early twentieth century. Best-remembered for the remarkable ballets he created as choreographer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Fokine fused tradition with innovation to produce works of poetry, drama and sensational exoticism. Several of his masterworks, including Petrushka, The Firebird and Les Sylphide, continue to be performed by companies around the world, and broke new ground for ballet at the time of their creation.

Author Cyril Beaumont was fortunate enough to see many of Fokine’s works performed by their original creators, including Le Spectre de la Rose, La Carnaval and the dazzling Orientalist fantasy Scheherazade. In this survey of Fokine’s works, Beaumont provides an overview of the choreographer’s career to 1931 and describes his ballets in detail – not only those made for Diaghilev, but those that Fokine produced in Russia and America as well.

Beaumont also sets out Fokine’s choreographic credo which was central to his collaborations with fellow artists such as designers Leon Bakst and Alexandre Benois, and composer Igor Stravinsky. Through his ballets, Fokine sought to achieve the full integration of libretto, decor, music and movement, and to create a unity of ballet style with dramatic expression.

This reprint of Beaumont’s 1935 text provides an ideal introduction to Fokine’s career and the colourful subject matter of his ballets. The book also contains a translation of Fokine’s theories on ballet, his letter to The Times published in 1914, and a transcript of the choreographer in conversation. Although some readers might wish for the addition of notes on Fokine’s latter years (and less grainy illustrations), this is a book to take readers back in time to one of the most vibrant and energised periods in the history of ballet.

Dance Books; first published 1935, reprinted 1996. Paperback, 170 pages.