Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ballets Russes, 100 Years Later

As an excellent article in the New York Times recently reminded us, the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev's extraordinary company, gave its very first performance 100 years ago.
I have been celebrating this anniversary with remarkable books. Speaking of Diaghilev is a collection of interviews with all kinds of people, from supreme prima ballerina Tamara Karsavina to dancers Serge Lifar and Ninette de Valois, conductors Ernest Ansermet and Igor Markevich, who were all involved with the Ballets Russes.
I also read Choura, the memoirs of ballerina Alexandra Danilova, whose exquisite face and superb legs you can admire in these pictures. A student of Vaganova at Theater Street and later Marinsky dancer, she was also the second wife of Balanchine. Her recollections of Saint-Petersburg during the 1917 revolution are as engrossing as her tales of working with Massine, Coco Chanel, who designed costumes for the company, Balanchine, Stravinsky, Alicia Markova and many more.


I also just ordered Bronislava Nijinska: The early memoirs, an autobiography of Nijinsky's sister and a choreographer who famously staged Stravinsky's Noces. And I have my eye on John E. Bowlt's Moscow & St. Petersburg 1900-1920: Art, Life, & Culture of the Russian Silver Age...

27 comments:

Valerie T said...

Hi there, i really love your blog and its great that you have so much knowledge and appreciation for ballet and the ballets russe!
My name is Valerie and im a dancer at the Australian Ballet and this is their last year of i think a five year association and research of the ballets russe. Each year they have put on Ballet russe works and ballet russe inspired pieces (scheherazade, les sylphides, spectre de la rose, les presages etc.)
this year they are adding petroushka and choreogrpaher Graeme Murphy is re-staging Firebird...i thought you would be interested to hear this..You can find more info about what we are doing on the aus ballet website www.australianballet.com.au.
Keep up the beautiful blog entries and awareness for ballet, it needs it !
xoxox

jean-louis said...

Il y a 3 ou 4 ans alors que nous etions a Venise avec maman nous avons cherche la tombe de Diagilew dans une petite ile et..nous l'avons trouvee. En pensant tres fort a toi nous nous sommes recueillis un moment en cet endroit en pensant que c'etait toi qui effectuait cette visite. Dad

preppyplayer said...

Thank you for an informative post of an obvious passion of yours :)

sølvi said...

I think I'll order that last book u mentioned in this post today. Thanks for sharing:-)

Christine said...

Amazing. And so stylish:)

Gerard Willing said...

Dancing+music+drama+costume & scenery... Those Russians mastered with equal talent the four ingredients of ballet. My younger sister (who, sadly, passed away two years ago) had been trained as classical dancer and shared your passion. She was an absolute fan of Margot Fonteyn in "Dante Sonanta." So I'm moved when I read your posts on ballet & ballerinas. My sister had many, many books on the subject and I think I'll start borrowing a few to my niece. I love your blog. Thanks.

Spangler Cummings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spangler Cummings said...

Had to visit your blog for my daily "spot of beauty." What a soul you have! (Remind me to tell you sometime about my box seats with five men to see the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.)

Desideria Madrid said...

What an interesting topic!

Mary-Laure said...

VALERIE - I'm so THRILLED by your comment! I didn't know about this project, which is great, because it's so important to save this extraordinary heritage.
I'll definitely check out the link you so kindly included.

JL - oui, je me souviens, j'aurais du en parler dans mon post... La prochaine fois!

GERARD - I felt both heart broken and happy as I read your comment. It must be devastating to lose a sister - I adore mine.
Please keep me posted on your dance readings, I am sure you'll enjoy these precious books - because they're interesting and because they will connect you to your sister, who also read those words and flipped those pages.

SPANGLER - I can't wait to hear this anecdote!! You always meet the most fascinating people.

Fifi Flowers said...

Ballet is sooooo beautiful... the last time I was at the ballet was the Nutcracker performed by a Russian ballet company... wow... it was 9 years ago.

The Seeker said...

Thank you for sharing such good information.

xoxo

Gabbi said...

Lovely post, ballet is such a beautiful and graceful thing. Fascinating to think that the first performance was only 100 years ago. It seems timeless to me. Thank you for sharing this information and for posting those gorgeous photos of Alexandra Danilova.

Hila said...

oh thanks for this post Mary-Laure!

Mary-Laure said...

FIFI - 9 years ago?! You need to go back!

GABBI - I agree, "timeless" is the word. I'm very happy you liked this post - I know how much you love all things beautiful.

Dave King said...

A truly great post. I do not get to the ballet these days, but reading your post was the next best thing. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and for taking me back.

gracia said...

Thank you, thank you... I want to read them all. I shall add them to what is fast becoming one very long 'to read and devour' list.

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Enjoy the Nijinsky, I have the picture of him in Afternoon of the Faun lodged in my head......

Anonymous said...

i love your excitement and enthusiasm for books and ballet...it is so wonderfully obvious in your posts!
nancyxx

please sir said...

A 100 years? Wow! What an honor and can you imagine the history?

the asherette said...

wonderful entry and wonderful images- not only the ones you posted but the ones you give to your readers. Diaghilev was excellent, I love the way the Russian ballet energized those times... and I also love Nijinsky. thank you.

MISS GLITZY said...

I discovered the importance of the Ballets Russes when I did research about Valentine de Saint-Point and the french artists who did sketches of the dancers like Valentine Hugo, Gerda Wegener and of course Léon Bakst who designed costumes and scenery for the Ballets. I've got two drawings of him I found in an old magazine, whenever I can I'll scan and send them to you.

Rina said...

gracias por este post Mary Laure! acabo de hacer uno en mi blog sobre ballet, me alegra encontrarme con esto y además habia mucho datos que no tenia idea, me encanto lo de coco chanel!

Mary-Laure said...

GRACIA - my To Read list is also pretty obese...

THE ASHERETTE - have you read Nijinksy's diary (unexpurgated version? It's really an extraordinarily moving book.

MISS GLITZY - I'm not familiar with the work of Valentine de Saint-Point, Valentine Hugo and Gerda Wegener. I'd love to hear more and hope you can share those images with me some time.

RINA - si, Chanel colaboro varias veces con los Ballets Russes, que increible no?

A World in a PAN said...

A pleasure to read you, as always, but ballet really inspires you!

michiko said...

You always introduce me to great books, and the photos are beautiful too, thank you!

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