The Ballet Russe
Dance, as we know it today, has evolved into a tremendously popular aesthetically pleasing form of entertainment. It merges with other forms of art to create one master piece, a sort of melting pot of art. Before the time of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe, dancing was not nearly as exciting and stimulating to watch, much less as popular. In the mere twenty years of its existence, “the Ballet Russe accomplished more in the development of the art form than any single institution in history.” Established in 1909, the Ballet Russe was successful from the very beginning. Not only did the ballets have beautiful choreography by brilliant choreographers such as Fokine, but also had willing and talented artists and musicians completing the package. This influenced society immensely, from fashion to the way art was appreciated. For example, the colorful settings in Sheherazade made by Leon Bakst, inspired the new “Oriental” look in home decorating and in clothes. Now famous painters such as Picasso, Braque, Rouault, and Matisse got clear exposure to the public eye in their set designs and paintings, peaking interest in new forms of visual art. All of this of course, would have never happened if it wasn’t for Diaghilev.
When appreciated, ballet is an art without words (Lawson, v). A ballet dancer expresses everything through the movement of his body (v). His body is like a fine instrument, carefully tuned and maintained to perfection so when played, represents a work of absolute beauty. Mikhail Fokine, one of the great Russian ballet masters of the 20th century, once said that if it were necessary to “read a libretto before the ballet [could be] understood,” then the choreographer had failed (v). In the 1900’s, the Russians became a driving force in the art of ballet. Much of Europe, and even America, was greatly influenced by the Russians’ superb skill and their innovative ideas and techniques. They began a dance revolution that not only impacted ballet in the 20th century, but also the 21st century’s standards for all forms of dance. Yet, before one can understand why the Russian Ballet changed 20th century dance for all of Western Civilization, there first must be a basic knowledge of the history of ballet.
Ballet can’t be traced to, nor was it necessarily invented by, one person (Parsons, 2). Rather, ballet has evolved from the cultures within different time periods throughout the ages (2). The initial use of body control an
George Balanchine is often said to be one of the three most creative geniuses of the 20th Century, next to Picasso, and Igor Stravinsky. He as well revolutionized ballet for the entire Western World (Buckle, ii). His training under the Imperial School and Diaghilev led him to become the director of the New York City ballet in his later years. Author and ballet instructor Dick Andros made this statement about George Balanchine to summarize is effect on the Western World:
Diaghilev’s influence on Europe also came from the famous non- Russians he was able to incorporate in creating his masterpieces. For the artwork done in his ballets, Diaghilev imported the likes of Bakst, Braque, and Pablo Picasso to create amazing sets (7). His music was often created by composers like Claude Debussy, Satire, and the most important- Igor Stravinsky who Diaghilev discovered and launched a career for (Museum of Art, 27). Sergie Diaghilev was a 20th century Renaissance man of the highest degree. His expertise was so wide that Europe couldn’t help but be changed by his innovations.
That statement helped give birth to a whole new style of dance, which would later become a revolution in the West, especially in America. Diaghilev, Balanchine, and Fokine all open the door for modern dance. Dance that emphasizes not only all the training of ballet, but the emotion of a soul, and extreme creativity falling outside the...