The Dying Swan Will Never Die

At the turn of the 20th century, Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova legitimized and popularized ballet around the world with her one-of-a-kind magnetism and performance style. She is best remembered for her performances of The Dying Swan, a classical solo that fused brilliant technique with striking expression.

Pavlova in costume for The Dying Swan

The Dying Swan, composed primarily of bourrées and soft undulations of the arms, was created especially for her in 1907 (some sources say 1905) by Ballets Russes choreographer Michel Fokine. Here, Pavlova performs her iconic solo.

The Dying Swan is performed to this day by companies such as the Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and parodied by Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Here are some different interpretations to familiarize yourself with.

Classicism at its best: The Bolshoi Ballet’s Svetlana Zakharova performed The Dying Swan for World Ballet Day last year.

A contemporary interpretation: choreographer Dominic Walsh envisioned The Dying Swan as a woman at a cocktail party.

Jookin star Lil Buck became famous for his liquid-style interpretation of this solo.

And last but certainly not least, Paul Ghiselin, aka Ida Nevasayneva of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo performs a hilarious parody. What would Pavlova think?

Photo by Herman Mishkin, courtesy of the New York Public Library

For a history lesson plan on Pavlova and The Dying Swan, subscribe to Dance Teacher and download the October issue.

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