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…tonne- moi!!

 
 

Darwin, Diaghilev, Detroit...

   

 

  

 

"Astonish me!" were the famous words with which Diaghilev issued a challenge of sorts to Jean Cocteau (who designed the poster above, and was most famously director of the wonderful La Belle et la BÍte).  The result was the ballet Parade (1917), produced by Diaghilev, designed by Pablo Picasso, composed by Erik Satie, and set to a scenario by Cocteau.

 

The founder of the famed Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev (1872 - 1929) understood that ballet had to constantly evolve in order to stay relevant; lessons perhaps for CEOs today, or Detroit!  He transformed the world of ballet, ushering it into the modern age.  Change and collaboration were the hallmarks of his style.  A particularly fascinating interplay between tradition and innovation then, since ballet is by definition a rather rigid, codified art.  Diaghilev was an impresario, a unique combination of connoisseur, producer, agent, financier, protector, and artistic visionary.  He surrounded himself with the best young dancers (Pavlova, Karsavina, Spessivsteva), choreographers (Fokine, Massine, Nijinsky), composers (Satie, Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev), and artists (Picasso, Leon Bakst, Juan Gris).   The resulting ballets were stunning productions that meshed the different arts seamlessly, extravagantly. 

 

To mark the centennial of the Ballets Russes the New York Public Library has organized a sumptuous exhibit of costumes, posters, pictures and films: Diaghilev's Theater of Marvels: The Ballets Russes and Its Aftermath.  Most of the costumes on display are sophisticated reproductions of the originals, many of them made by the Joffrey Ballet in the 70s and 80s.  Also on display are a pair of Pavlova's ballet slippers and remarkable outsized reproductions of Picasso's cubist-inspired costumes for Parade.

 

Affectionately known as Chinchilla to many of his dancers for the dramatic streak of white hair, Diaghilev was possessed of unerring taste.  One of the last choreographers that Diaghilev mentored at the Ballets Russes was a young Georgian by the name of George Balanchine.  Balanchine took ballet on the next evolutionary step forward, speeding it up and making it even more physical, and later went on to found the New York City Ballet with Lincoln Kirstein.  Continuity, collaboration, innovation, evolution -- all legacies that Diaghilev left the dance world, ideas that are relevant in so very many other areas....         

 

The exhibit at the NYPL will be followed by several performances of Ballet Russes works by different companies at City Center's Fall for Dance Festival (Sept 22 to October 3).

 

See: La Belle et la BÍte

 

Visit: Diaghilev's Theater of Marvels: The Ballets Russes and Its Aftermath

 

See: City Center's Fall for Dance Festival

 


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Sergei Diaghilev

 

 

 

 

Felia Doubrovska, 
 Ballets Russes 


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