Lydia Lopokova


Lydia Lopokova (1892 Saint Petersburg - 1981 London), Russian ballet dancer. She graduated from the Imperial Ballet School in 1909. In 1923 she left Russia to join Diaghilev's Ballets Russes.


Excerpt from her memoirs, edited by her daughter.



  "As we were rehearsing [in the Imperial Ballet School, Saint Petersburg, 1907] the door opened and in came a tall, statuesque woman in a long white Grecian robe, with her hair in a fillet. It was Isadora Duncan, and she and her troupe opened a new world for us with their new, wavy, flowing, rhythmical movements – which clearly inspired Fokin.




  Now, Isadora Duncan did not know about technique. But she used her hands like swans. Before Isadora, no one ever used hands. Before her, the Russians just had fists. But Isadora showed us how to use our hands. And because of Isadora, the dance was extended, and that was wonderful for all of us. There is soul in the fingers when they are used. But beware! Hands can betray you, you know, if they are used improperly.




  It was not long after Fokin made the Polovtsian dances in Prince Igor that he began his romantic ballets - Les Sylphides, Carnaval and Le Spectre de la Rose. The rest of us always associated this great new movement of his with the visit of Isadora Duncan to St. Petersburg, though Fokin himself would never quite agree that her influence on him was so great as we thought. We had always been taught to hold our bodies tight and stiff, in precise positions.

  The visit of Isadora Duncan and her girls, with their wavy, flowing rhythmical movements, opened to us a new world. We girls exchanged chocolates and kisses with Isadora’s little troupe, while the master of the ballet was receiving from Isadora herself the stimulus to combine the new elasticity with the old precision - which was the foundation of the later Fokin choreography.

  At the time Les Sylphides marked one of the greatest revolutions in the art of the ballet, as remote from the precisions of Petipa as Massine’s staccato dances later on."