Michel (or Mikhail) Fokine (St Petersburg, 23 April 1880 – New York City, 22 August 1942), was a Russian-American choreographer who is regarded as the founder of modern ballet.
Fokine trained at the renowned Imperial Ballet School (now the Vaganova school) in St Petersburg. He made his debut as a ballet dancer in 1898 at the Mariinsky Theatre in Marius Petipa’s Paquita with the Mariinsky Ballet. From 1902, he also worked as a teacher at the Ballet School and choreographed impressive creations like Acis and Galatea (1905) and The Dying Swan (1907), a solo performed by Anna Pavlova.
In 1909, Fokine followed Sergei Diaghilev to Paris and became a choreographer with the Ballets Russes. He soon gained international recognition for his productions of the Polovtsian Dances (1909), Les Sylphides (1909), The Firebird (1910), Petrouchka (1911), Le Spectre de la Rose (1911) and Daphnis et Chloé (1912).
In 1912, Fokine left the Ballets Russes, mainly because he could not get along with Vaslav Nijinsky and because he was jealous of his close relationship with Diaghilev. Fokine was particularly irritated by the fact that Diaghilev encouraged Nijinsky to choreograph ballets himself.
In 1914, he had great success in Paris with his first choreography for an opera: The Golden Cockerel by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
After a short stay in Sweden, Fokine emigrated in 1919 to the United States, where he worked for various prominent ballet companies and started his own ballet school. In 1932, he became an American citizen, although he still returned regularly to Europe in this period. During his lifetime, he choreographed more than seventy ballets, many of which are still performed today. Fokine is still regarded by many people as the best ballet choreographer ever.