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Twirling Ballerinas

The story of the pharaohs daughter ballet

The Ballet Story of the Pharaoh’s Daughter

Yekaterina Krysanova as “Princess Aspicia” and Kristina Kretova as “Hita” or "Ramzé" (Aspicia’s Nubian slave), “The Pharaoh’s Daughter”, Bolshoi Ballet (choreographed by Marius Petipa) - Photographer Yekaterina Vladimirova

Pharaoh’s Daughter” (or “La Fille du Pharaon” in its original French title) is a full-length ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa with music composed by Cesare Pugni. The ballet premiered at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in 1862. It tells the story of an Egyptian princess, Aspicia, who falls in love with a young Englishman, Lord Wilson, when he is captured and brought to Egypt.

The ballet is known for its captivating and exotic scenes, elaborate costumes, and grand choreography. Here is a description of some of the key elements and scenes of “Pharaoh’s Daughter”:

Act 1: The ballet opens in an Egyptian marketplace, bustling with traders and dancers. Aspicia, the Pharaoh’s daughter, is presented with suitors seeking her hand in marriage. She is not interested in any of them and becomes disheartened. Suddenly, a group of foreign tourists arrives, including Lord Wilson, who immediately captures Aspicia’s attention.

Act 2: Aspicia dreams of a romantic encounter with Lord Wilson. The dream takes her to a magical realm, the Kingdom of the Shadows, where she encounters spectral apparitions and experiences a hauntingly beautiful pas de deux with Lord Wilson.

Act 3: A grand ceremony is held to celebrate the annual Festival of the Nile. Aspicia and Lord Wilson, who has been freed from captivity, attend the festivities. The ballet showcases an array of mesmerizing dances, including Egyptian temple dancers, a lively pas de cinq (dance for five), and a captivating solo for Aspicia.

Act 4: The festivities are interrupted when a jealous rival of Aspicia plots against her. She arranges for Aspicia to be bitten by a venomous snake during the performance of a snake-charmer. Aspicia collapses and is believed to be dead.

Act 5: Grief-stricken, Lord Wilson takes Aspicia’s lifeless body to the pyramid, where she is placed in her tomb. However, Aspicia’s love is so powerful that it revives her, and she emerges from the tomb. The ballet concludes with a joyous celebration of love and reunion as Aspicia and Lord Wilson are finally united.

“Pharaoh’s Daughter” is known for its challenging choreography, including demanding variations for the principal dancers, intricate ensemble dances, and the captivating Kingdom of the Shadows scene in Act 2, which is a showcase of ethereal and mystical dancing.

The ballet is a spectacular blend of classical ballet techniques, character dances, and elements of Orientalism, transporting the audience to the exotic and romantic world of ancient Egypt. It remains a beloved and rarely performed gem in the ballet repertoire.