“Anna Pavlova, dance icon”, on France Inter: a legendary performer of “The Death of the Swan”

Since 2015, Stéphanie Duncan has been telling the story differently in her weekly show on France Inter

“Anna Pavlova, dance icon”, on France Inter: a legendary performer of “The Death of the Swan”

Since 2015, Stéphanie Duncan has been telling the story differently in her weekly show on France Inter. And it's a great success: in November and December 2023, "Gone with History" accumulated more than 730,000 downloads and, after "The Mask and the Feather" Jérôme Garcin version, it is the show most downloaded over the weekend.

One of the last episodes (available, like all, in replay) is devoted to the dancer and choreographer Anna Pavlova, who, from her debut, electrified the crowds. Moreover, when Rudolf Nureyev was asked who his favorite dancer was, he replied: “It’s a dancer: Anna Pavlova (…). She spoke with her body. It was so moving that it felt like your heart was being gently ripped out. A kind of exquisite pain. »

In the first part of the show, Martine Planells, journalist specializing in dance and biographer of Anna Pavlova (Anna Pavlova. The Incomparable, Gremese, 2019), looks back on the dancer's childhood which very much resembles a tale by Andersen. Born in 1881 to a washerwoman mother, she discovered Sleeping Beauty on the stage of the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg, in the choreography of Marius Petipa. She is 9 years old, upset and dreams of becoming a dancer.

Passion and determination

And it is then that the fiction, written by Martine Planells for the occasion and directed by Cédric Aussir, takes over to make us relive the beginnings of Anna Pavlova, played here by Judith Chemla. Through the voice of the actress, the passion and determination of the dancer can be heard, who will enter the legend thanks to her interpretation of The Death of the Swan, to an extract (the 13th movement) from Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saëns, created for her and to her liking by Michel Fokine.

And there, the magic of the radio, you just have to close your eyes and let yourself be carried away by the production of Cédric Aussir, who lets Chemla-Pavlova's breath pass while the music is heard more fully. Then, her loves, her students and her international tours will be discussed, and then, finally, this year 1930 and this right knee which causes her pain – without her giving up dancing. Suffering from pleurisy, Anna Pavlova died in The Hague (Netherlands) on January 23 of the following year, after having requested her costume from The Death of the Swan.

If today some only know this name because of the meringue dessert created in honor of the dancer, may this program, through the evocative and sensitive force of fiction, make her better known. And make you want to dance – again.