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The Dying Swan

The Dying Swan
Anna Pavlova in costume for the Dying Swan, Buenos Aires, ca 1928, by Frans van Riel.jpg
Anna Pavlova in costume for The Dying Swan, Buenos Aires, Argentina, c. 1928
Choreographer Mikhail Fokine
Music Camille Saint-Saëns, (Le cygne from Le Carnaval des animaux)
Premiere 1905
St. Petersburg, Russia
Created for Anna Pavlova
Genre Romantic
Type Classical ballet

The Dying Swan (originally The Swan) is a solo choreographed by Mikhail Fokine in 1905 to Camille Saint-Saëns's Le Cygne from Le Carnaval des animaux as a pièce d'occasion for the ballerina Anna Pavlova, who performed it about 4,000 times. The short ballet (4 minutes) follows the last moments in the life of a swan, and was first presented in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. The ballet has since influenced modern interpretations of Odette in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and has inspired non-traditional interpretations and various adaptations.

Inspired by swans that she had seen in public parks and Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "The Dying Swan", Anna Pavlova (who had just become a ballerina at the Mariinsky Theatre) asked Michel Fokine to create a solo for her for a 1905 concert being given by artists from the chorus of the Imperial Mariinsky Opera. Fokine suggested Saint-Saëns's cello solo, Le Cygne (which Fokine had been playing at home on a mandolin to a friend's piano accompaniment) and Pavlova agreed. A rehearsal was arranged and the short dance completed very quickly. Fokine remarked in Dance Magazine (August 1931):

It was almost an improvisation. I danced in front of her, she directly behind me. Then she danced and I walked alongside her, curving her arms and correcting details of poses. Prior to this composition, I was accused of barefooted tendencies and of rejecting toe dancing in general. The Dying Swan was my answer to such criticism. This dance became the symbol of the New Russian Ballet. It was a combination of masterful technique with expressiveness. It was like a proof that the dance could and should satisfy not only the eye, but through the medium of the eye should penetrate the soul.



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  • Balanchine, George; Mason, Francis (1975). 101 Stories of the Great Ballets. New York: Anchor Books. ISBN . 
  • Carter, Alexandra (2004). Rethinking Dance History: A Reader. London: Routledge. ISBN . 
  • Garafola, Lynn (2005). Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance. New York: Wesleyan University Press. ISBN . 
  • Gerskovic, Robert (2005) [1998]. Ballet 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving the Ballet. Pompton Plains, NJ: Limelight Editions. ISBN . 
  • McCauley, Martin (1997). Who's Who in Russia since 1900. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN . 
  • Youngblood, Denise Jeanne (1999). The Magic Mirror: Moviemaking in Russia, 1908–1918. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN . 
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Wikipedia

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