The Story Of Fokine

Modern ballet can attribute its lyrical artistry and dramatic expression to one particular man, Mikhail Mikhailovich Fokine. Michel, as most people in the west knew him, was often referred to as the father of modern ballet.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russian on April 25, 1880, to working-class parents, Michel would go on to become one of the most influential dancers and choreographers in the realm of modern ballet. Against his father’s wishes and disapproval of dancing as a career, Michel secretly auditioned for the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg. He received the highest ranking possible in the audition; thus, finally securing his father’s approval to attend the ballet academy.

Michel’s experience at the Imperial School of Ballet was intensive and often overly technical in nature, which was frustrating for Michel. However, Michel sought out other, more artistic endeavors, such as music and art, to compliment the rigidity of this training. These experiences would eventually form the basis of his future dance style and choreography. Having graduated from the Imperial Ballet School, Michel went on to join the Maryinski Imperial Ballet as a soloist. It is here that Michel began to make his first impression on the ballet scene with one of his dance partners, Anna Pavlova. During this time, Michel began to experiment with the basic premises of ballet. His experience with multiple artistic forms of expression during his years at the Imperial School of Ballet had cultivated in him a desire to see ballet as more of a theatrical creation that would appeal to the audience’s emotions and passions. Michel would eventually go one to create the “Five Principles,” which was a set of revolutionary ballet concepts that he applied to all of his choreography and would forever transform the universe of ballet.

Michel Fokine danced and choreographed throughout Europe and North America for the better part of his career. He would eventually create an incredible resume of eighty-one ballets, such as, Les Sylphides, Firebird, and his last ballet, The Russian Soldier. Michel’s personal life also contributed to the advancement of ballet. Michel married one of his students, Verotchka Antonova in 1905, and together, they had a son whom they called Vitale. Vitale would eventually become a ballet dancer and choreographer in his own right. As a family, the Fokine’s would tour and eventually open a school of dance. Vitale continued the family tradition with his own daughter, Isabella Fokine, whom also became a successful dancer and choreographer. In 1993, Isabella paid homage to her grandfather when she choreographed The Return of the Firebird, which was debuted at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Mikhail Mikhailovich Fokine passed away on August 22, 1942 having amassed an astonishing career, both as a dancer and choreographer. His brilliant career left a legacy that continues to have lasting influence on the world of ballet.

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