Magazine article The Spectator

Artistic Eclecticism

Magazine article The Spectator

Artistic Eclecticism

Article excerpt

According to information I read, the four works presented in the first of the two Kirov Ballet's programmes dedicated to the art of Mikhail Fokine have been restaged by the choreographer's granddaughter, Isabelle. Yet, historical accuracy is not the strength of this performance which stands out for its interesting though unusual approach to a repertoire that has long remained exclusive to Western dance culture.

Indeed, when revived, Fokine's ballets have always presented some stylistic problems and most reconstructions have failed to recapture or to evoke the special magic that, according to primary sources, caused a sensation among those who attended the early seasons of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Many years have elapsed since Fokine expounded his principles in a letter published in the Times in 1914 and which were considered the manifesto for contemporary ballet. But today there are new choreographic modes. Also, the choreographic canons against which both Fokine and Diaghilev reacted have been rediscovered. This has gradually vitiated the original essence of Fokine's works. In other words, it is difficult to state how much has been left today of what at the beginning of the century was an innovative approach to ballet. Yet, it is also true that what survives today as Fokine's choreography still stands out for its everlasting freshness and shows clearly where most of the contemporary ballet formulae came from.

In addition, what most reconstructions seem to overlook is how Fokine moulded his works to specific artistic personalities such as Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Adolf Bolm. It is clearly, therefore, impossible to revive faithfully those dances without the original people and artistic material. Still, as is often the case with theatrical masterworks, each dance contains a clearly identifiable `trail of options' that allows different interpreters to adjust their rendition to their own skills without betraying too much of the given choreographic text. To limit this interpretative freedom in the name of `historical accuracy' would mean to come up with stale productions that have no theatrical appeal whatsoever. Moreover, it should be remembered that artistic freedom was one of Fokine's principles, formulated as a reaction to the constrictions of his 19thcentury predecessors. …

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