Sergei Diaghilev (1872 - 1929), was a Russian ballet impresario and founder of the revolutionary Ballets Russes dance company. The work of the Ballet Russes influenced 20th-century art, theatre, fashion and interior design. In 2010, the V&A hosted the major exhibition ‘Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes, 1909 - 1929’.
Video: Richard Alston on Diaghilev's Choreography
Choreographer, Richard Alston, imagines Diaghilev has given him a new dance piece to choreograph for a piece by Tchaikovsky. Richard Alston, CBE, Artistic Director of leading ballet centre, The Place is a distinguished choreographer who has worked with Ballet Rambert, as Resident Choreographer and with the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio in New York. Here Alston looks back at Diaghilev’s collaborations with no less than five great choreographers over 18 years including Nijinsky, his sister Nijinska and Fokine. ‘I don’t have an idea of what I’m going to do until I hear the music,’ Alston tells us.
Video: Howard Goodall on Diaghilev's Music
Howard Goodall looks at the emergence of a distinctly Russian brand of classical music from the early nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth. The Ballet Russes' sensational debut in Paris, then the world's undisputed capital of creative and artistic culture, brought worldwide exposure to the revolutionary new brand of ballet Diaghilev had helped to create.
Video: Installing the Le Train Bleu Backdrop
This film shows the two week long process of erecting Picasso's giant backdrop for the 1924 Ballets Russes production of Le Train Bleu. Its great size - more than half the size again of Guernica - means that it has only rarely emerged into the world since its sensational debut in 1924.
Video: Conserving Diaghilev
Jane Pritchard, co-curator of the V&A exhibition 'Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes', explains the conservation challenge provided by the blockbusting. We look at the process of conserving ballet costumes, backdrops and posters and programmes which were damaged both by the athletic exertions of Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes dancers as well as a century's wear and tear.
Born in Russia in 1866, Léon Bakst belonged to that young generation of European artists who rebelled against 19th century stage realism, which had become pedantic and literal, without imagination or theatricality. There were no specialist trained theatre designers, so painters like Léon Bakst turned their painting skills to theatre design. Bakst’s fame lay in the ballets he designed for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, and huge pageant spectaculars for dancer and patron, Ida Rubinstein.
Ballet dates back to the royal courts of 17th-century Europe. Styles of choreography have changed radically over the years, through the Romantic, Classical and 20th-century ballet periods. The V&A holds a large collection of ballet-related items in its Theatre & Performance collections including set designs, costumes, production photographs and orchestral scores.