Ballets Russes

Ballets Russes

Ballets Russes: see Diaghilev, Sergei Pavlovich.

The Ballets Russes (French for The Russian Ballets) was a ballet company established in 1909 by the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev. It performed until his death in 1929. It was initially resident in the Théâtre Mogador and Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris and then moved to Monte Carlo. Its members originated from the Tsar's Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, where all its dancers were associated and trained. Younger dancers were trained in the Russian tradition in Paris, with the community of exiles after the Russian Revolution. The company featured and premiered now-famous (and sometimes infamous) works by the great choreographers Marius Petipa, Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Leonide Massine, Vaslav Nijinsky, and a young George Balanchine at the start of his career.

It created a sensation in Western Europe because of the great vitality of Russian ballet compared to French dance. The Ballets Russes became one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century, in part because of its ground-breaking artistic collaboration among contemporary choreographers, composers, artists, and dancers. Its works were part of the avant-garde culture in Paris and France. That influence, in one form or another, has lasted to this day.

After Diaghilev's death, the company's property was claimed by creditors. The dancers were scattered. Colonel Wassily de Basil and his associate René Blum revived the company under the name Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. George Balanchine and Leonide Massine worked with them as choreographers and Tamara Toumanova as a principal dancer. De Basil and Blum argued constantly, so Blum founded another company under the name Original Ballet Russe.

During World War II the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo toured extensively in the United States, giving Americans a strong impression of what was known as "Russian Ballet." When dancers retired and left the company, they often founded dance studios in the United States or South America, or taught at other dancers' studios. With Balanchine's founding of the New York City Ballet, many former Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo dancers went to New York to teach.

The Original Ballet Russe toured mostly in Europe. Its alumni were influential in teaching classical Russian ballet technique in European and British schools.

The Serge Lifar collection of Ballets Russes costumes and other memorabilia is on display at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.

The ballet company and artistic collaboration

Russes was started by Marius Pepita, a frenchman. The company consisted of 13 members, all at a very high standard of dance. The dancers and choreographers associated with it included George Balanchine, Mathilde Kschessinska, Michel Fokine, Vera Karalli, Tamara Karsavina, Serge Lifar, Alicia Markova, Léonide Massine, Bronislawa Nijinska, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Ida Rubinstein and Lydia Lopokova.

The company invited contemporary artists to design sets and costumes, including Bakst, Benois, Braque, Gontcharova, Picasso, Chanel, Matisse, Derain, Miro, de Chirico, Dalí, Bilibin, Tchelitchev, Utrillo and Nicholas Roerich.

In another collaboration, Diaghilev and his choregraphers worked with contemporary composers, who included Debussy, Milhaud, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Ravel, Satie, Respighi, and Richard Strauss. Perhaps the most notable was Igor Stravinsky, whom Diaghilev spotted when he was virtually unknown. By hiring Stravinsky, Diaghilev helped launch his career in Europe and later the United States. Stravinsky's scores for ballets The Firebird and Rite of Spring shocked Paris audiences and the latter caused a near riot.

Principal productions

See also: Ballets Russes productions
Year Title Composer Choreographer Set and costume
1909 Le Pavillon d'Armide Nikolai Tcherepnin Michel Fokine Alexandre Benois
1909 Prince Igor Alexander Borodin Michel Fokine Nicholas Roerich
1909 Cléopatre Anton Arensky Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1910 The Firebird Igor Stravinsky Michel Fokine Alexandre Golovine, Léon Bakst
1910 Schéhérazade Rimsky-Korsakov Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1910 Carnaval Robert Schumann Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1911 Petrushka Igor Stravinsky Michel Fokine Alexandre Benois
1911 Le Spectre de la Rose Carl Maria von Weber Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1912 L'après-midi d'un faune Claude Debussy Michel Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky Léon Bakst, Odilon Redon
1912 Daphnis et Chloé Maurice Ravel Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1912 Le Dieu Bleu Reynaldo Hahn Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1912 Thamar Mily Balakirev Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1913 Jeux Claude Debussy Vaslav Nijinsky Léon Bakst
1913 Le sacre du printemps Igor Stravinsky Vaslav Nijinsky Nicholas Roerich
1913 Tragédie de Salomè Florent Schmitt Boris Romanov Sergey Sudeykin
1914 La légende de Joseph Richard Strauss Michel Fokine Léon Bakst
1914 Le Coq d'Or Rimsky-Korsakov Michel Fokine Natalia Goncharova
1915 Soleil de Nuit Rimsky-Korsakov Léonide Massine Mikhail Larionov
1917 Parade Erik Satie Léonide Massine Pablo Picasso
1919 La Boutique fantasque Gioachino Rossini, Ottorino Respighi Léonide Massine André Derain
1919 El Sombrero de Tres Picos (aka Le Tricorne) Manuel de Falla Léonide Massine Pablo Picasso
1920 Le chant du rossignol Igor Stravinsky Léonide Massine Henri Matisse
1920 Pulcinella Igor Stravinsky Léonide Massine Pablo Picasso
1921 Chout Sergei Prokofiev Mikhail Larionov Mikhail Larionov
1921 Sleeping Princess Pyotr Tchaikovsky Marius Petipa Léon Bakst
1922 Renard Igor Stravinsky Bronislava Nijinska Mikhail Larionov
1923 Les Noces Igor Stravinsky Bronislava Nijinska Natalia Goncharova
1924 Les Biches Francis Poulenc Bronislava Nijinska Marie Laurencin
1924 Les Fâcheux Georges Auric Bronislava Nijinska Georges Braque
1924 Le train bleu Darius Milhaud Bronislava Nijinska Laurens (scene), Coco Chanel (costumi), Pablo Picasso (fondali)
1925 Les matelots Georges Auric Léonide Massine Pruna
1926 Jack in the Box Erik Satie George Balanchine André Derain
1927 La chatte Henri Sauguet George Balanchine Naum Gabo
1927 Mercure Erik Satie Léonide Massine Pablo Picasso
1927 Pas d'acier Sergei Prokofiev Léonide Massine George Jaculov
1928 Apollon musagète Igor Stravinsky George Balanchine Bauschant (scene), Coco Chanel (costumi)
1929 Le fils prodigue Sergei Prokofiev George Balanchine Georges Rouault

External links

  • Danza Ballet: Especial The Ballet Russes
  • Ballet Russes (2005), documentary covering the history of the Ballets Russes, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Original Ballet Russe from the former's inception through the latter's end, featuring many interviews with surviving dancers of the company - IMDB listing
  • JM Barrie and the Russian Dancers – article by Robert Greenham about Barrie's play The Truth about the Russian Dancers and his friendships with the prima ballerinas of Ballets Russes, Lydia Lopokova and Tamara Karsavina.

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