The Company Index
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).