The final curtain


This entry brings the blog for Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929 to its conclusion. I had hoped to write more about the dismantling of the exhibition but time has run out. Briefly the costumes that had been on open display had to have three days in the freezer before being carefully packed. A large refrigerator was hired for a week of the kind used for ‘Wimbledon and royal events’ to keep food cool. Freezing protects fabrics, killing off any insects and, while we are vigilant and hope to keep the museum free of pests, these unwelcome visitors inevitably come in. Before being wrapped for the freezer the costumes had to be vacuumed to remove dust. The costume will travel in their own crates on their mannequins which are carefully fixed in position and wrapped in tailor-made soft packing (it’s like they each have their own duvet). One or two of the more fragile costumes (the Chinese Conjuror from Parade and those for Sadko) are receiving a little more loving attention before they set out on global travels.

This week the cloths for Train bleu and The Firebird came down. Just as all available hands helped to put them up now a large team slowly lowered them and rolled them up. BecauseThe Firebird backcloth is so large it had to be double rolled. By this I mean rolled as it came down and then spread out flat in Gallery 39 (all covered in polythene) and rolled sideways. This is the shorter length for this particularly large cloth and it is the only way it can be taken out of the V&A and back into storage. As we rolled it sheets of tissue and wadding were inserted (so that it is like a giant Swiss roll!) this both protects the surface and enables it to be rolled more evenly. The team that crawl along the floor responded to the instruction ‘roll’ and a few feet were rolled before the next strips of tissue and wadding were lowered in – rather as if performing the Doris Humphrey dance work Soaring . One of the delights of being part of the team rolling cloths is that it enables you to look closely at the details of the cloths.

It was quite curious to be in Gallery 39 (our first gallery) as the blues and greens of the walls in preparation for The Cult of Beauty are quite different from the colours of the Diaghilev Exhibition.

All that remains is for me say that everyone on the team is now busily focused on their next projects. Tim Hatley our designer is of course responsible for the costumes for Shrek The Musical opening at Drury Lane on 6 May and his design colleagues Angela and Paul of Drinkall Dean are currently working on projects in Poland, India and Norfolk. Howard Goodall, our adviser on music who was awarded and OBE in the New Year Honours has one musical in the West End (Love Story) completing its run at The Duchess Theatre and another, Kissing Dance (based on She Stoops to Conquer) receiving its professional premiere at Jermyn Street Theatre on 22 March. All our conservators move from one project to another and Susan Catcher has been looking at additional loans of works on paper for the Diaghilev tour. Susana Hunter is working on a tapestry for the Treasures of the V&A tour (as well as additional conservation on our costumes) both Susan and Susana will be involved with installing and de-installing the Diaghilev works on tour. Diana will continue to co-ordinate the Diaghilev project as it moves around the world and is also overseeing the fascinating Decode exhibition from the V&A on its tour. In the Theatre & Performance Collections we have a host of projects – Dance gets its next look in at the V&A with A Flash of Light: The Dance Photography of Chris Nash 19 March – 29 August.

As a reluctant blogger I must confess I have enjoyed the opportunity to share snippets of information about the exhibition, respond to questions and reveal new material as it has been discovered. This, of course, not the end on my work on Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes (Canberra here I come to see another Ballets Russes exhibition and I have presentations lined up from Oslo to Ohio). The exhibition is still being written about and talked about – and it even featured on Russian television this week! What I had never anticipated when I started out was that my blog would be quoted in newspapers such as The New York Times.

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