Cover image for Diaghilev's Ballets russes
Diaghilev's Ballets russes
Garafola, Lynn.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.
Physical Description:
xviii, 524 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
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Corporate Subject:
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Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library GV1786.B355 G37 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In the history of twentieth-century ballet, no company has had so profound and far-reaching an influence as the Ballets Russes. It existed for only twenty years--from 1909 to 1929--but in that brief period it transformed ballet into a vital, modern art. The Ballets Russes created the first of this century's classics: Les Sylphides, Firebird, Petrouchka, L'Après-midi d'un Faune, Le Sacre du Printemps, Parade, Les Noces, Les Biches, Apollo, and Prodigal Son, all of which continue to be performed today. It nurtured many of the century's greatest choreographers--Fokine, Nikinsky, Massine, Nijinska, and Balanchine--and through them influenced the direction of dance to this day. It brokered the century's most remarkable marriages between dance and the other arts, forging partnerships between composers such as Stravinsky, Debussy, Falla, Ravel, Prokofiev, and Satie, painters like Picasso, Bakst, Matisse, Derain, Braque, Gris and Rouault, and poets on the order of Hoffmansthal and Cocteau. From the dancers who passed through its ranks emerged the teachers and ballet masters who continued its work in cities large and small throughout the West. And, as if all this were not enough, the company also created a following for ballet that anticipated today's popular audiences.
The era of the Ballets Russes is probably the most chronicled in dance history, yet this book is the first to explain the company as a totality--its art, enterprise, and audience. Taking a fresh look at familiar sources and incorporating fascinating archival material previously unexamined by Diaghilev scholars, Lynn Garafola paints an extraordinary portrait of the Ballets Russes, one that is bound to upset received opinion about the wellsprings and impact of early modernism. She traces the company's origins not only from Diaghilev and his circle but also from Fokine's revolutionary secession within the Russian Imperial Ballet, shows for the first time how the art of the Ballets Russes reflected its status as a complex economic enterprise, and reveals how Diaghilev created an audience that in turn shaped his company's changing identity.
It is an amazing story with characters from all walks of life--titans of art, grandes dames of Continental society, anonymous stagehands, long-forgotten dancers, and theater managers from Monte Carlo to Tacoma--and Garafola tells it brilliantly. Anyone interested in our century's dance, music, art, fashion, and cultural history will have to read it.

Author Notes

About the author:
Lynn Garafola is a dance critic and historian living in New York.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

The Ballets Russes, in existence from 1909 to 1929, heraled modernism in ballet. The company's infamous impresario, Serge Diaghilev, had an uncommon facility for recognizing talent and fostering successful collaborations. He brought together innovative artists, dancers, composers, and choreographers in groundbreaking productions such as L'Apr es-Midi d'un Faune . Fokine, Nijinsky, Picasso, Stravinsky, Massine, Bakst, and Balanchine were just a few of the key players in the company's history. Garafola's approach to dance history is expansive, taking in the cultural and artistic influences and economic realities, and applying newer methodologies. Scholarly, yet extremely readable, this is highly recommended for most libraries, even those owning Richard Buckle's Diaghilev (LJ 10/1/79).-- Joan Stahl, Enoch Pratt Free Lib., Baltimore (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Before the arrival of Garafola's discussion of art and enterprise in the Ballets Russes, most of the available books on this extraordinary company were unself-conscious reiterations of the gossip and anecdotes surrounding the company's famous men. Garafola's book displaces the usual voyeuristic elaborations of Diaghilev's and Nijinsky's artistic and private activities with a meticulous and thorough documentation of the complex interplay of aesthetics, economics, and the public reception that affected the creation and survival of this dance company. By employing the critical strategies of contemporary social history and feminist theory, the author has begun to ask new questions of her research material, thus uncovering various cultural issues so often ignored in traditional dance histories. As she traces the labyrinth of social and aesthetic contexts that produced this amazing company, Garafola introduces her reader not only to the historical information itself, but also to the varied ways in which one can interpret that information. It is this awareness of methodology that sets an entirely new precedent in dance history and makes this book a brilliant addition to any graduate or undergraduate library. -A. Cooper Albright, Oberlin College

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