Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes: London walk

Take a free guided tour through the streets of London's Covent Garden to discover key landmarks in the story of Sergei Diaghilev's legendary Ballets Russes.

Founded by Russian ballet impresario Serge Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872 – 1929), the Ballets Russes dance company revolutionised ballet and had a huge influence on 20th-century art, theatre, fashion and interior design, that continues today.

Diaghilev embraced the avant-garde to combine dance, music and art in bold ways to create 'total theatre'. A consummate collaborator, he worked with ground-breaking artists, choreographers, composers, designers, and dancers, including Igor Stravinsky, Coco Chanel, Léon Bakst, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Vaslav Nijinsky. Diaghilev's dramatic performances transformed dance, reawakening interest in ballet across Europe and America.

The Ballets Russes made its London and British debut at the Royal Opera House in 1911, just two years after it was founded, and went on to perform nearly half of all its performances in London during its 21-year existence.

This walk is designed to take in the theatres in which they performed and other key landmarks on the way. Although much of the area has changed since the early decades of the 20th century, evidence of the Ballet Russes' time in London remains.

The tour starts at Covent Garden tube station and takes about one and a half hours.

This content was originally produced for the exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909 – 1929, on display at the V&A South Kensington from 25 September 2010 – 9 January 2011.

Background image: Leon Woizikovskyby and Lydia Sokolova in Le Train Bleu, photograph by Sasha, June 1924, London. Museum no. S.302-201. 7© Victoria and Albert Museum, London