Fokine's Swan

8:46 AM

Anna Pavlova asked Michael Fokine to choreograph a solo for her to dance at a charity performance for poor mothers with newborn babies in 1907. Rumor has it he picked The Swan because that was what was on the piano at the time (Levine, 42).

Vladimir Dokoudovsky was friends with Fokine, and danced with him in the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Dokoudovsky was known to be one of the best choreographers for re-staging Fokine’s work, because he worked so closely with him.

In 1981, Laura Karmi was coached by Ludmila Dokoudovsky, his daughter. Ludmila loaned Karmi her father’s copy of Fokine’s notes for the piece.

This is peculiar because I couldn’t honestly find any mention of there being notes in any of my research. Supposedly Fokine just choreographed it off the top of his head, and then Anna did it after him and he corrected a few things and sent her on her way. However, when I did get to study the notes, Karmi claimed they were pictures taken by Fokine of his wife, Madame Fokina, wearing the original costume.

There are several possible situations. One is that Fokine did in fact choreograph this version, and Anna Pavlova changed it. In one book I read, there was mention that Anna Pavlova performed her ‘interpretation’ of the choreography (Reinhardt, 18), but I couldn’t track that citation to figure out where the author gotten that information.

Another option was that Fokine choreographed a different version later, very possibly after Pavlova had already died (as she died backstage before one of her performances of the piece in question).
And of course it is possible that someone else choreographed this version, and it is not related to Fokine or Pavlova or Dokoudovsky at all.

Either way, my chance of getting another copy of the notes is slim, and actually figuring out the truth behind it is unlikely, as both of the Dokoudovskys are dead. The only real way to prove it would be to look at the handwriting on the sheet music and compare it to Fokine’s handwriting, and compare the photographs with those of Madame Fokina, or to find someone else who knew Fokine and saw it performed and ask them. Alas, my research is not quite that exhaustive.

Works Cited
Levine, Ellen. Anna Pavlova: Genius of the Dance. Scolastic Inc. 1995. Print.
Reinhardt, Angela. Pointe Shoes; Tips and Tricks. Dance Books Ltd. 2008. Print.
Interview: Laura Karmi. E-mail communication. 23 October 2011. Web.

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  1. I saw Ludmila's copy. It was part of a publication of the sheet music for piano along with photographs of Fokina in different poses and positions with a verbal description of the movement. I don't remember who the publisher was, but I think it was a music publisher. Fokine likely created more than one version of it, and I believe the very first was on Fokina, not Pavlova. You can look this up in his biography. Mr. Dokoudovsky danced in Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, but I know that it was when he was in Ballet Theater that Fokine was one of the company's choreographers, and that he staged Les Sylphides then, with Ludmila's mother, Nina Stroganova dancing the Mazurka.

  2. Do you know where you got the publication? My copy disappeared and i'd love to be able to study it again.


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