Uliana Lopatkina in The Dying Swan

Ulyana Lopatkina (Rus. Ульяна Лопаткина) in The Dying Swan, music by Camille Saint-Saëns, choreography by Mikhail Fokin. Stars of Benois de la Danse 2015 – Laureates of Different Years, shot on 27.5.2015 in the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.

Uliana Lopatkina in The Dying Swan

Ulyana Lopatkina in The Dying Swan

Ulyana Lopatkina in The Dying Swan

Ulyana Lopatkina (written also Uliana Lopatkina; Rus. Ульяна Лопаткина) is prima ballerina with Mariinsky Ballet, St. Peterburg, Russia. Ulyana was born on 23th of October 1973 in Kerch (Ukraine). From the early age Ulyana took dancing classes and was admitted to the Academy of Russian Ballet named after Vaganova (St.Petersburg) where she studied the art of dancing from Galina Novitskaya in primary school and Natalia Dudinskaya in higher school. Still being a student of the Academy, Uliana took won at Vaganova-prix Competition (St.Petersburg, 1991).

After graduation from the Academy in 1991 Ulyana joined Mariinsky theatre company (St.Petersburg). In 1994 Ulyana successfully made her debut as Odette/Odille in the “Swan Lake” ballet in St.Petersburg, for which she was awarded with “Golden Sofit” as best debut in St.Petersburg. In 1995 Ulyana was called the principal dancer of Mariinsky theatre where her teachers were Olga Moiseeva and Ninel Kurgapkina. Presently Ulyana’s coach is Irina Chistyakova.

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. This ballet is inspired by swans that she had seen in public parks and Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Dying Swan”, Anna Pavlova 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 and Pavlova agreed. A rehearsal was arranged and the short dance completed very quickly.

Mikhail Fokine (French Michel Fokine; English Mikhail Fokin; Russian: Михаи́л Миха́йлович Фо́кин) (1880 – 1942) was a groundbreaking Russian choreographer and dancer.

Fokine was born in Saint Petersburg, at the age of 9, he was accepted into the Saint Petersburg Imperial Ballet School (Vaganova Ballet Academy). In 1898, on his 18th birthday, he debuted on the stage of the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in Paquita, with the Imperial Russian Ballet (now the Mariinsky Ballet). In 1902, he became a teacher of the ballet school. Among his students were Desha Delteil and Bronislava Nijinska.

Fokine aspired to move beyond stereotypical ballet traditions. Virtuoso ballet techniques to him were not an end in themselves, but a means of expression. He also believed that many of the ballets of his time used costuming and mime that did not reflect the themes conveyed in the ballets. Therefore, Fokine sought to strip ballets of their artificial miming and outdated costumes. Fokine studied Greek and Egyptian art, including vase-painting and sculpture, which aided the development of his themes.

In addition, as a choreographer, he initiated a reform that took ballerinas out of their pointe shoes and also experimented with a freer use of the arms and torso. He presented his reformist ideas to the management of the Imperial theatre, but did not win their support. One such request was to have his dancers perform barefoot in his 1907 ballet Eunice. Since his request was denied, Fokine had toes painted on the dancers’ tights so they would appear to be barefoot.

Some of his early works include the ballet Acis and Galatea (1905) and The Dying Swan (1907), which was a solo dance for Anna Pavlova, choreographed to the music of Le Cygne. Acis and Galetea included an acrobatic dance with young boys playing fauns; one of those boys was Vaslav Nijinsky. Fokine later featured Nijinsky in a number of ballets, including Chopiniana (1907), ultimately renamed Les Sylphides in 1909.

In 1909, Sergei Diaghilev invited Fokine to become the resident choreographer of his Ballets Russes in Paris. Fokine’s years with Ballets Russes were successful, collaborating with other artists to create a ballet of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade which premiered in 1910. This ballet was inspired by symphonic poems composed by Rimsky-Korsakov and ancient tales of 1001 nights also known as the Arabian nights. The spectacular sets designed by Leon Bakst matched the sexually charged choreography. Despite his lack of historic accuracy, the ballet was widely successful due to its brilliant colors, exoticism and sexual overtones. (1910, featuring Vaslav Nijinsky in the role of the Golden Slave); The Firebird (1910) Was also created by “committe”. A system inspired by the wagnerian notion known as Gesamtkunstwerk which translates in the synthesis of theatrical elements like; music, drama, spectacle and dance giving birth to a more cohesive art work. Petrushka (1911); With music composed by Igor Stravinsky and sets designs by Alexandre Benois Petrouchka was inspired by the Russian puppet which traditionally appeared at the Butter Week Fairs. In this ballet Fokine included, street dancers, peddlers, nursemaids a performing bear and a large ensemble of characters that complemented the plot. The story was centered on the sinister Magician (Enricco Ceccetti) and his three puppets; Petrouchka (Nijinsky) the Ballerina (Karsavina) and the savage Moor (Alexander Orlov) and Daphnis et Chloé (1912). Fokine’s ballet Le Spectre de la Rose (1911) showcased Nijinsky as the spirit of the rose given to a young girl. His exit featured a grand jeté out of the young girl’s bedroom window, timed so the audience would last see him suspended in mid-air.

Fokine left Ballets Russes in 1912, however, jealous that Diaghilev had asked Nijinsky to choreograph the avant-garde L’après-midi d’un faune. A year later, Diaghilev was obliged to re-hire Fokine,who made it a condition of his re-employment that none of Nijinsky’s choreography would be performed.[ The Paris premiere of The Golden Cockerel by Ballets Russes in 1914 was an opera-ballet, guided by Fokine with set designs by Natalia Goncharova.

The outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 disrupted the established touring circuit, which included countries now on opposing sides, and caused a number of dancers, including Fokine, to return to their own countries. He moved to Sweden with his family in 1918 and later established his home in New York City, where he founded a ballet school and continued to appear with his wife, Vera Fokina. He became a United States citizen in 1932.

In 1937, Fokine joined Col. Wassily de Basil’s Ballets Russes offshoot, eventually named the Original Ballet Russe. Among the new works he created during this period were Cendrillon (1938) and Paganini (1939). Fokine’s choreography was featured with the company through 1941.

Fokine staged more than 70 ballets in Europe and the United States. His best-known works were Chopiniana, (later revised as Les Sylphides), Le Carnaval (1910), and Le Pavillon d’Armide (1907). His pieces are still performed by the leading ballet troupes of the world, the Mariinsky Ballet having performed a retrospective of his works at London’s Covent Garden in late July 2011.

Fokine died in New York on 22 August 1942. /Wikipedia/

Photos by Jack Devant Ballet Photography with kind permission of the Benois de la Danse and Bolshoi Theatre Moscow, special thanks to Nina Kudriavtseva-Loory, Regina Nikiforova and Denis Savchenko. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *