2 3 Throwback Thursday and Diaghilev | Ballet Webb

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday and Diaghilev

Throwback Thursday and Diaghilev

He wasn’t a dancer. He wasn’t a choreographer. Yet Serge Diaghilev changed the course of dance history, through the founding of the Ballets Russes.

Serge Diaghilev was born on March 31, 1872 in Russia. He went on to study law at the University of St. Petersburg, graduating in the 1890s. But due to his passion for the arts, he abandoned law and went on to study music. In 1899 he debuted a magazine: Mir Isskustva (“World of Art”).

Later, Diaghilev worked at the Maryinsky Theatre, doing such a variety of tasks, including managing performances. He quickly developed a reputation as a connoisseur of the arts.  He traveled with an art exhibit to Paris in  1907, and while he was there he presented a concert featuring Russian composers.

In 1909 he launched the Ballets Russes, a dance company that would change dance forever. He featured not only great dancers such as Anna Pavlova and Nijinsky, he used artists such as Picasso and Matisse for sets, and composers like Stravinsky for music. The company took Europe by storm, and by 1916 they debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The company broke new ground in many areas, but particularly by presenting ballet differently, with movements based on, but not defined by, traditional classicism. Females weren’t just delicate waif-like creatures, and male dancers were more than just partners for the ballerinas. 

The company thrived until 1929, when Diaghilev, suffering from complications from diabetes, died in Venice on August 29th. The world of dance would never be the same.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets:

Dance History Factoid #68:  
Diaghilev wasn’t a dancer or choreographer, but he changed dance history.”

                Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“Of all the wonders of the world, only art promised immortality.”
-          Serge Diaghilev

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