It’s trendy, it’s girly, it is everything everyone in ballet is trying to capture: The Awakening of Flora. Ballet variations during the competition season come in cycles, four years ago it was the year of Satanella, two years ago, it was the year of Harlequinade, during the 2021 covid competition season, it looks like the Awakening of Flora is on the up trend. For most, the first exposure to The Awakening of Flora happened by Ava Arbuckle during her time at Elite Classical Coaching under Catherine Lewellen, as she took this variation to the Prix de Lausanne. This year, the Awakening of Flora was done by numerous competitors around the world, which means, next year, we will be probably be seeing even more of this ballet.
The Awakening of Flora, a ballet rarely seen outside of Russia is taking the competitive world of ballet by storm.
The Awakening of Flora (Le Réveil de Flore) was choreographed by Marius Petipa in 1894, with the libretto by Petipa and Lev Ivanov (who was originally given partial credit for choreography, but that’s wrong), and music by Riccardo Drigo. The ballet eventually died out after a short run with Anna Pavlova, but was revived in 2007 by Sergei Vikharev for the Mariinsky. Evgenia Obraztsova premiered as the lead during the reconstruction. This amazing one act ballet focuses on the relationships between the Roman Gods and Goddesses with killer costuming and beautiful music.
Originally, this ballet was supposed to have Greek names, but somehow the names got mixed up. We get it. mistakes happen, the problem was that the title of the ballet included ballet anacréontique which basically means the subject is of Ancient Greece, but the names got mixed up. But that wasn’t the only mix up around this ballet. Originally, Petipa and Drigo were working on a new ballet for the summer season which would be titled La Bal Champêtre, but the newspapers announced that The Awakening of Flora would be premiering for the wedding of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandraovna.
After the premiere, two more variations were added for Eos/Aurora (goddess of the dawn) and Hebe (goddess of youth).
ABOUT THE BALLET
So , the basic sum up of the libretto is based on the how Flora and gains eternal youth and immortality. If you don’t know your Greco-Roman folklore, here it is. Well first, backstory: Chloris is a nymph who is raped by Zephyrus, but then falls in love with him with no complaints, and he makes good on the rape by marrying her. Sketchy, we know and not my words… the translated words by Oxford. But, we did not write this, it is found in Fasti book 5 by Ovid (he wrote Metamorphoses). Okay, anyways, when she marries Zephyrus, he is so in love with her that he gives her power over flowers. And sooooo, that is where the ballet begins, she is now Flora.
Flora is sleeping under the watch Diana (Moon Goddess) and Aquilon (God of the North Wind) wakes her up because of a cold breeze and threatens her and her flowers, because who doesn’t like sleeping outside in the cold or be abruptly woken up by a man?
Aurora/Eos (the dawn) comes on over about to summon Helios (Sun God, in Greek mythology he is known as Apollo), where Flora asks for Aurora’s help. Because women should help women, and frankly no one wants to deal with all of that. But, this is ballet… so of course Aurora can’t actually help her, she needs a man’s help… So, Aurora promises that Helios will help, which he does. Helios Gives her a kiss.
PLOT TWIST: Zephyrus appears (God of the West Wind, in Greek mythology Zephyr) and they are in love and reunited (queue in the pas de deux). Then we call up Mercury (Hermes), Hebe, and Ganymede who grant the Flora and Zephrus eternal youth and immortality. Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate with all the friends in mythology… like satyrs and nymphs and other mythical beasts. Party. Then all of the Gods and Goddesses appear revealing Mount Olympus. Finished.
Here is Russian superstar Maria Khoreva performing this variation.
Hop skip and a jump to 2020, Elite Classical Coaching‘s Catherine Lewellen staged Awakening of Flora for Ava Arbuckle, and went on to win second prize the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. Ava Arbuckle is no stranger to A Ballet Education, she was the cover of Issue 15 which was shot during the ADC IBC Competition where Ava took the top prize.
Catherine Lewellen on coaching Ava Arbuckle: “We were thrilled when Awakening (of Flora) popped up on the Prix de Lausanne list and immediately knew that was the right choice for her. It’s a nice tempo and has a variety of qualities that worked well for Ava. She has lovely long limbs and the movement and choreography is luscious and lingering and really highlighted her strengths. We spent time working on some of the skills within the variation that are more demanding such as the arabesque turn into attitude turn combination as well as focused on timing and musicality. We wanted to make it her own even though many would be doing the same variation; we looked for ways and moments for her to stand out and really embody the variation rather then just robotically repeating the standard steps and I feel she was able to do that remarkably well. After that it was just a matter of polishing it all, cleaner quicker emboites, balancing at the end of turns and within a position, turning out and lengthening the releves, lifting and controlling the pique turns and doing all of this consistently. But she’s a work horse and a technician so it was all very satisfying!”
This year at YAGP finals there were multiple women who took Flora to finals, but most notably, we fell in love with Dmitri Kulev Classical Ballet Academy‘s Fiona Poth. So much so, Ashley Baker photographed her during their cover shoot with A Ballet Education. Outside of her technique and artistry, her costume was reinterpreted, and a little more age appropriate as she competed as a Junior. Her costume was created by Heather Lerma. Gaynor girl Fiona took the top spot at YAGP San Diego and was a Spotlight Awards finalist. Follow her instagram here.
Move onto the World Ballet Competition where McKenzie Thomas took Awakening of Flora. McKenzie Thomas will be joining the Orlando Ballet in the fall, and was in town, so we decided to shoot her. She is the inspiration behind this post, as even she recognizes the trend around this variation. McKenzie Thomas made her first cover with A Ballet Education on Issue 4 of the magazine during her time at Master Ballet Academy, and has gone on to be the bronze medalist at the world ballet competition, danced with Colorado Ballet’s Studio company before joining Orlando Ballet. Photos by David King. Sunglasses from Bloc Eyewear.
Also this summer, ballet star, and the latest winner of the Youth America Grand Prix finals, Brady Farrar and his award winning partner Brianna Guagliardo took the Awakening of Flora Pas de Deux to Italy to perform. Brady is also an A Ballet Education cover model.
Don’t know how much longer it will be up, but here is the full ballet:
- Petipa, Marius, The Diaries of Marius Petipa. Translated ed. and introduction by Lynn Garafola. Published in Studies in Dance History 3.1. (Spring 1992)
- Kschessinskaya, Matilda, H.S.H. The Princess Romanovsky-Krassinsky (1960) Dancing in Petersburg: The Memoirs of Mathilde Kschessinskaya. Alton, Hampshire: Dance Books Ltd
- Naughtin, Matthew (2014) Ballet Music: A Handbook. Lanham, Maryland, US: Rowman & Littefield
- Wiley, Roland John (1997) The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press