The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov: Choreographer of the Nutcracker and Swan Lake

The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov: Choreographer of the Nutcracker and Swan Lake

The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov: Choreographer of the Nutcracker and Swan Lake

The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov: Choreographer of the Nutcracker and Swan Lake

Synopsis

This is the first book-length study in any language about this Russian artist--Parius Petipa's colleague and Tchaikovsky's collaborator--who is widely celebrated and yet virtually unknown. It follows Ivanov from his infancy in a St Petersburg foundling home through to his career as a dancer, regisseur, and choreographer in the St Petersburg Imperial Ballet. Ivanov's artistic world is described, as is his legacy-- some dozen works, including Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and the famous dances from Prince Igor--that inspired Mikhail Fokine in the next generation. The book is richly documented, including the first complete publication of Ivanov's memoirs and hundreds of citations, many published here for the first time, from state documents, reminiscences, and criticism.

Excerpt

In life and art, Lev Ivanovich Ivanov was an enigma. No artist ever made a stronger claim to posterity's respect for creating half a masterpiece: Swan Lake, with Ivanov's memorable images of the swan queen Odette and her companions, stands at the centre of any canon of classical ballet. Perhaps only The Nutcracker, another work which Ivanov created half of, outstrips it in popularity, having become a seasonal ritual in England and America.

Yet few artists of such capacity have remained so obscure, an obscurity which deepens the enigma. No egotist, he, in contrast to the stereotype of the great choreographer. Beloved of colleagues and esteemed in balletic St Petersburg for his modesty, Ivanov was a constant and reassuring presence in the Petersburg ballet during turbulent times, without becoming a celebrity. Rarely during his lifetime did the press refer to him with more than a passing compliment. Nowhere in over 5,000 surviving letters did Tchaikovsky, his collaborator on The Nutcracker, mention his name. Nor did master choreographer Marius Petipa, who worked with Ivanov for more than fifty years, pay him the least heed in written accounts. Important dancers referred to him but occasionally in reminiscences, while Ivanov's own memoirs are laconic and naïve. He wrote mostly of his early years and virtually nothing of his compositions; Swan Lake and The Nutcracker are not even mentioned. As for Ivanov's choreography, which appears to have been improvised, no cache of technical documents, such as Petipa left, has been publicly identified. That one ever existed is in doubt.

Ivanov's obscurity would be difficult to illumine were modesty its only cause. He was prey to circumstance, spending most of his near-anonymous dancing career in an age of star choreographers and ballerinas. As that career waned Ivanov, long elegible for a pension, might well have dropped from view had circumstance, now defined by Petipa's illness, not charted a new course for him as 'second balletmaster', his official title. Still subordinate to ballerinas and other choreographers, Ivanov now was more a public . . .

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