I eat my words!

The Ballets Russes on stage during their first visit to the Fêtes des Narcisses when they danced Les Sylphides and Aurora’s Wedding (which is shown in this photograph).

The Exhibition build is being dismantled – the cloths are all wrapped up and the technicians taking all the structures down and I shall report further on this as I wrap up this blog BUT I am still leading an exciting life going out and about. At Monday’s Dance Critics Awards at Sadler’s Wells the exhibition received praise from members of the dance profession ( a very welcome acknowledgement) and I am still doing presentations. On Monday evening I did a ‘behind the scenes at the Diaghilev exhibition’ for the London Ballet Circle as a result of which one of their members, Susan Eastwood, contacted me first thing this morning and said she thought she have discovered some film of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes on the internet would I take a look. And yes, I think she is right. It is a curious newsreel with a very garbled catalogue entry. The Pathé catalogue states that the location of event unknown and describes the stage in a park surrounded by trees in an unidentified town in a valley. The dance is described as ‘One female dancer (representing Narcissus?) w/chorus of female dancers; ballerinas who pose while the male soloist dances.’ Well there is absolutely no doubt that this is Montreux in Switzerland during their annual June festival, Fêtes des Narcisses.

Susan spotted this curiosity and did some checking finding her clue in my ‘Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes – An itinerary Part II’ Dance Research 27.2 Winter 2009 which includes an photograph of Les Sylphides being performed at the 1923 Fêtes des Narcisses at Montreux in Switzerland. The title of the clip on the Pathé website of Festival of Narcissus encouraged Susan to contact me. Naturally I called the film up as we spoke and I think we now have to say there is a tiny fragment of film of the actual Ballets Russes.

What we see is I believe the June 1928 Festival (the topiary arch indicates this is the Ballets Russes second visit to Montreux when they danced Les Sylphides, Cimarosiana and the Polovtsian dances from Prince Igor). I believe that Serge Lifar was dancing the lead role – sometimes referred to as the poet. No doubt the long wig worn confused the cataloguer to suggest ‘One female dancer (representing Narcissus?)’.

I have often commented that if the Fêtes des Narcisses was happening now everyone would be filming it surreptitiously and if only someone had sneaked a movie camera in.The film is poor quality (obviously filmed from at a distance and almost certainly without permission of Diaghilev); very brief….But now I have to say Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was filmed!


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