#TBT: Ghislaine Thesmar in "The Dying Swan"

“With an inner voice the river ran,

Adown it floated a dying swan…"

-From The Dying Swan (1830) by Lord Alfred Tennyson


Lord Alfred Tennyson's poem The Dying Swan, along with a lifelong fascination with swans, inspired ballet legend Anna Pavlova to request a solo from choreographer Michel Fokine in 1905 (some sources say 1907). He chose Camille Saint-Saëns' nostalgically romantic composition for cello and piano “Le Cygne," and The Dying Swan was born. Like a poem, the iconic role is open to many interpretations. In this clip, Ghislaine Thesmar—a Paris Opéra Ballet étoile in the 70s—calls to mind Tennyson's words. Arms undulating like graceful wings, she elegantly dips her torso atop a fluid, unbroken current of bourrées. Her eventual submission to gravity and death is so gentle that, were she really floating down the river Tennyson envisioned, she would do so without so much as a splash.

Thesmar's contributions to the art form go beyond her renowned performing career. She and her husband, French choreographer Pierre Lacotte, became the first directors of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo in 1985, and Rudolf Nureyev later invited her to train a new generation of stars at the POB School. Happy #TBT!

Fun fact: Anna Pavlova kept swans as pets; her favorite's name was Jack.

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Ballet West Promotes Katlyn Addison and Hadriel Diniz to Principal; 8 Others Say Farewell

Last week, Ballet West announced that first soloists Katlyn Addison and Hadriel Diniz have been promoted to principal artist. The news marks a historic moment for the company.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Eighteen-year-old Sarah Patterson (foreground), with her classmates at New Ballet School. She's decided to stay home this summer to take advantage of outdoor, in-person classes. Courtesy New Ballet School.

Why Planning Summer Study This Year Is More Complicated Than Ever

When it comes to navigating summer intensives, 2021 may be more complicated for ballet students than last year. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic's spring spike in 2020, summer programs went all-virtual or had very limited capacity. This year is more of a mixed bag, with regulations and restrictions varying widely across state and county lines and changing week by week.

Between vaccines and variants, can students aim for a full calendar of intensive training at local and national summer programs?

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks