Diaghilev's music and choreography

Composer Howard Goodall and choreographer Richard Alston unpick how Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes created a new breed of Russian ballet, to the delight and alarm of the Parisian cultural elite.

Diaghilev's music

How do you tell a story without a spoken or sung narrative? Composing for dance presents particular challenges. In this film, the award-winning composer Howard Goodall looks at how responses to these challenges brought about the emergence of a distinctly daring Russian brand of classical music, and how the Ballets Russes' sensational 1909 debut in Paris – then the world's undisputed capital of creative and artistic culture – brought worldwide exposure to Diaghilev's revolutionary new brand of ballet.

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Diaghilev's choreography

"I don't have any idea of what I’m going to do until I hear the music", says distinguished choreographer Sir Richard Alston. In this film, Alston imagines he's choreographing a new dance piece for Diaghilev to music by Tchaikovsky, performed by dancers Wayne Parsons & Hannah Kidd.

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This content was created for the 2010 V&A exhibition Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes, 1909 – 1929.

Background image: Manuscript music belonging to Lydia Kyasht, unknown composer, mid-20th century, UK. Museum no. S.513-2018. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London