Dec 24 2010
Anna Pavlova – one of the finest classical ballet dancers in history – liked to watch for hours the gracious swans in public parks. It so happened that one of her favorite poems was Alfred Tennyson’s The Dying Swan. Her friend Mikhail Fokine – the groundbreaking Russian choreographer and dancer was also a fan of this Tennyson’s masterpiece. So it turned out to be very easy for Allan to convince Mikhail to create a solo ballet for her based on her inspiration. Pavlova ambitiously wanted to perform for a 1905 concert being given by artists from the chorus of the Imperial Mariinsky Opera.
At his parties Fokine often played on a mandolin to a friend’s piano accompaniment Saint-Saëns’s cello solo, Le Cygne (The Swan). He offered this musical work as the basis for the short ballet and Pavlova agreed. During their collaboration they agreed that the short ballet would follow the last moments in the life of a swan. Only one rehearsal was arranged and the short dance completed very quickly.
The Dying Swan ballet was performed for the first time in 1905 in St.Petersburg and became a national and worldwide sensation overnight. Anna Pavlova loved it so much that she performed it over 4000 times throughout her life. It became her signature ballet. Anna was that good that the Dying Swan ballet heavily influenced modern interpretations of Odette in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake which was created much earlier in 1875. No wonder, that sometimes general audience mistakenly thinks that the Dying Swan is a part of the Swan Lake.
Lucky for us, there is an old tape made in 1925 where Anna Pavlova gracefully performs The Dying Swan. Famous ballerina was already 44 years and the video is not perfect, but the ballet dancing is still beautiful. I saw many interpretations and still think that this one is the best. By the way, the dot on Pavlova’s chest in the video symbolizes a fatal wound.
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