Sunday, 6 September 2015

Anna Pavlova: The Dragonfly Ballet

I found this image at about the same time that I was creating my Dragonfly series. I didn't realise it at the time, but it is of the renowned ballerina Anna Pavlova performing her Dragonfly Ballet. Having looked at the work of dancer Loie Fuller and her Butterfly Dance in earlier posts (here), I felt inspired to do something similar with this dragonfly inspired image.

Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) was one of the most famous ballerinas of all time. She was born in St Petersburg, and was inspired to become a ballerina after seeing a production of Sleeping Beauty. She trained at the Imperial Theatre School, and then joined Mikhail Fokine who became well-known for his revolutionary ideas with choreography. He was so impressed with Pavlova that he devised the Dying Swan for her.

By 1909 Pavlova had moved to Paris and was dancing with Diaghilev's company, she then worked with the Russian Imperial Ballet before settling in London. She moved to Ivy House in Golders Green, and here she was able to study the swans that lived in the large pond there, which helped to bring a realism to her most famous dance role of the Dying Swan. 

At Ivy House Pavlova was able to develop and rehearse her own ballets after forming her own company in 1913. She was the undisputed star of course, and she was able to travel and build both her own reputation as a ballerina, and that of dance, making ballet a popular art form all around the world.

The photographs displayed here depict Pavlova as the Dragonfly, a short solo ballet that she choreographed herself to music by Fritz Kriesler. As the photographs show she danced the piece with a large pair of gossamer wings attached to her back, and her movements attempted to replicate those of a dragonfly. She debuted the Dragonfly during a tour of America from 1914-1915, and it became one of her signature pieces.

As well as being one of the most gifted dancers in history, Pavlova had an artistic gift and also gained a reputation as a sculptress. She produced several figurines of herself in poses from the ballets and roles in which she became famous. Pictured below is a figure created in porcelain of herself in the Dragonfly role. A copy of which is held in the collection of the V&A gallery, London. Some lovely original footage of Pavlova dancing Dragonfly can be found here.