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The Reforms of Michel Fokine

Photography, painting, videography, and literature have all progressed over time.New technology, and new ways of thinking have brought these arts to new levels. There

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seems to be a broad misconception, though, that ballet is an art form that does not

progress; does not change. Many people assume that ballet’s set vocabulary of movement

places limitations on how far the art can expand. Little do many people realize that this

vocabulary is a mere foundation for the myriad of interpretations that the art went and will

continue to go in. Michel Fokine is one revolutionary ballet choreographers, whose

reforms have taken this previously monotonous art to a new level. Fokine’s ideas were revolutionary for his time, but ironically made perfect sense.He believed that all of the elements in a ballet should be parallel. In other words, he

thought that the music, costuming, makeup, movements, and sets should all reflect the

same culture and time period of the ballet. During this time in ballet there were often

incongruencies. For example, there would be Russian music, and pointe shoes in a ballet

that supposedly was based on a foreign medieval culture. Fokine was extremely and

consciously consistent in his works. Fokine explains, “The ballet should be staged in

conformity with the epoch represented.” Fokine sets his 1911 ballet, Petrouchka, in Russia. The first scene is a street fair,

which Fokine sets appropriately. He is sure to make the costumes realistic of that time

and place. Rather than dressing the dancers in tutus and leotards, they wear dresses thatare brightly colored and long. They are bundled up appropriately in many colorful layers,

considering the chilling temperatures of Russian winters. They also do not wear pointeAtkins 2

shoes with long laces, but instead high heel character shoes that were typical of the time

period. Fokine also successfully creates personalities for the three dolls, partly by their

costumes. Petrouchka, who is a forlorn rag doll, wears a thin suit that is as lifeless and

limp as his personality. The costume and makeup is effective in showing his lack of

motivation and sadness. The Moor doll on the other hand, who is a very bold and vain

character is seen in dress that corres…

…ure to not let the music dictate the dance, as many artists before him had

done. In his Memoirs of a Ballet Master, he wrote “The choreography for [a pas de deux

I performed with Anna Pavlova] we mostly staged ourselves . . . We did whatever we felt

we could do best,” (Fokine quoted in Cass). This superficial movement was completely

against what Fokine believed in. Movement that did not contribute to the purpose and

plot af the piece was useless. Due to his intense focus on his intent, he successfully gave

the music, choreography, costumes, and sets equal importance and relevance to the entire

creation. Fokine’s exceptional dedication to his art is quite obvious. It is simply seen

thorough his opinion of applause, that his focus is his art, more than any recognition he

may get for it. While most artists would bask in the glory of each set of applause, Fokine

despised it, except at completely appropriate times. He believed that to move on from

tradition, one must be thoroughly trained in that technique, which he was. His many

daring reforms truly opened the world of ballet up to new possibilities, while not straying

too far from traditional technique.

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