The Russian choreographer Michel Fokine revolutionised the art of dancing, and then he was eclipsed by Nijinsky. Richard Sennett tells his glorious and sad story
News comes of the escalating spat between the violinist Nigel Kennedy and the impresario Sir John Drummond. Kennedy has played Berg's funereal Violin Concerto dressed in a black cape; Drummond hates the cape as a gesture of pandering to the masses -- although I haven't seen too many black capes in my local supermarket lately. Kennedy accuses Drummond of "elitism".
In one way, this is no more than another round of Britain's favourite sport, class warfare. Kennedy has lost this round, because that black cape is, in fact, a little gesture of contempt. It betokens the assumption that difficult or demanding art can't be served to the general public straight; high art needs to be "presented", "explained" or, in this case, dressed up.
The black cape has sharpened my memories of the season given this summer by St Petersburg's Kirov Ballet at covent Garden in London. There were, indeed, few representatives of the great unwashed or the young in the lower reaches of the house -- ticket prices of up to [pound]70 a seat ensured that. But the Kirov programmes, especially those devoted to the choreographer Michel Fokine, presented to us work that once sought, and succeeded in, speaking of new and strange things directly to a large public.