The Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev holds a special, even unique, position in the history of the performing arts, in terms of a reawakening of interest in ballet in Europe and America, in bringing Russian culture to the attention of the rest of the western world, and in presenting ballet as an equal partnership of movement, music, and visual design, in which all of the participants—composers, designers, and choreographers, as well as the inventors of plots and scenarios—could exert an influence upon the other aspects of their collaborative works.
This was an enterprise that appealed especially to cultured populations in large cities, but one that was to exert an effect and influence on the future of ballet that extended even beyond the impressive accomplishment of presenting some eighty individual ballets that were created and performed by many of the significant artists of the early years of the twentieth century.
Serge Diaghilev (1872–1929). Portrait by Constantine Korovine. Graphite and chalk. George Chaffée Collection. Gift, 1951. Harvard Theatre Collection, HTC 4,339.
Serge Diaghilev was responsible for having brought together and given important opportunities to such emerging artists as Stravinsky, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Picasso, de Chirico, and Miro, as well as many established Russian artists, such as Bakst, Benois, Roerich, and Goncharova. Many of the greatest Russian dancers, such as Nijinsky, Fokine, Karsavina, Kschessinska, and Pavlova, danced for Diaghilev, and he fostered the careers of many more who received their advanced training within the Ballets Russes. And it was Diaghilev, perhaps more than any other figure, who was responsible for raising the prominence of the male dancer, and for seizing upon the sensual possibilities of ballet.
Especially in its earlier years, the Ballets Russes was also grounded in Russian culture: amid the many modernist, advanced works, Diaghilev brought out ballets based on traditional Russian themes, created by Russian-born artists, composers, and choreographers, and performed by dancers trained in the Russian style. Diaghilev also revived a number of representative ballets and operas from the nineteenth-century Russian tradition.
The Ballets Russes began on a small scale: the first season consisted only of a few weeks in Paris, with no immediate expectation of permanency; and the second season, limited to Paris and Monte Carlo, was nearly as brief. It was the third season, in 1911, that brought the Ballets Russes also to London, where it caught fire; from that time, performing now under Diaghilev’s own name, the company was eagerly followed and enthusiastically reported as it grew in size, in repertory, and in prestige.
The year 2009 is the centenary year of the founding of the Ballets Russes. “The World of Art,” the phrase we have chosen to use within our title, is not only a broad statement of the impact and influence of the Ballets Russes, but is in fact a translation of the title of a periodical in support of modern art, “Mir Istkusstva,” which Diaghilev edited in St. Petersburg, and which first brought him recognition.
The exhibition, and the symposium planned in connection with the exhibition, both pay tribute to Diaghilev as a genius among impresarios and entrepreneurs. We hope they will also bring to life the beauty and impact of the works that resulted from the historic collaborative enterprise of the Ballets Russes. The speakers and panelists in the symposium, coming from a number of fields of specialization, will bring many perspectives to the appreciation of the Ballets Russes that should prove to be informative to their colleagues from all areas of interest. Registration in the symposium is open to all, and all are cordially welcome to attend. Further details about the exhibition and symposium are given below.
Schedule of Events
Wednesday, April 15
|8:30 a.m||Coffee and Symposium registration, New College Theatre|
|9:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.||First day of symposium, New College Theatre|
|3:30–5:30 p.m.||A Worldwide Diaghilev "Museum": Collecting, Collections, and Centers of Research. Panel discussion followed by audience response|
|5:30 p.m.||Exhibition viewing and opening reception, Pusey Library (registered symposium participants only)|
|8:00 p.m.||U.S. premiere of My Madness is My Love: Impressions of Vaslav Nijinsky, Brattle Theatre (registered symposium participants only)|
Thursday, April 16
|9:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.||Second day of symposium, New College Theatre|
|3:30–5:30 p.m.||Behind the scenes with Basil Twist's Petrushka. Demonstration, performance and discussion, New College Theatre|
|8:00 p.m.||Office for the Arts Harvard Dance Program presents Dancers' Viewpointe 9, including excerpts from Jaime Blanc's Rite of Spring, New College Theatre|
Friday, April 17
|9:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.||Third day of symposium, New College Theatre|
|3:30–5:30 p.m.||Diaghilev Redivivus: Revivals, Restagings, and Reconstructions. Panel discussion followed by audience response|
The exhibition, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: Twenty Years that Changed the World of Art, has been organized by Fredric Woodbridge Wilson, Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection. The exhibition, which includes more than 200 original documents and art works, is drawn entirely from the holdings of the Harvard Theatre Collection, with the exception of a few items from other libraries of the Harvard College Library.
The exhibition will be open to the public without charge. Pusey Library is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. The exhibition will be held in the Copeland Gallery and the Sheldon Exhibition Rooms on the main floor. (The library is closed evenings and weekends.) Pusey Library is located in Harvard Yard to the left side of Widener Library, as one faces the Widener front steps.
Advance registration for the symposium is required. Registration is limited to the capacity of the meeting room. Tickets will be required at all sessions and events.
A registration fee of $125 will be charged to attendees, other than speakers. Registration will cover all symposium sessions, programs, and events. Registration fee concessions for Harvard staff, faculty, and retirees are available through the Outings & Innings office; registration fee concessions for Harvard students are available directly from the Harvard Theatre Collection. Details regarding registration are found on the registration form, which may be downloaded from this link:
Arrangements for travel and accommodations are left to attendees and speakers. A block of rooms has been reserved at a local hotel for early symposium participants. Further information will be provided to registrants as their registration forms are received.
No meals are provided, other than continental breakfast and afternoon refreshments for each of the three days of the symposium. Harvard Square is well known for its many restaurants and shops.
The symposium sessions will be held at the New College Theatre (formerly the Hasty Pudding Club House). The New College Theatre is located at 10-12 Holyoke Street, close to Massachusetts Avenue.
(This list is accurate as of April 15, 2009, but is subject to change.)
Day-by-day Schedule of Speakers and Symposium Sessions
Joan Acocella, New York City, Staff Writer, The New Yorker
Ballerino: Androgyny in the Ballets Russes and After (Keynote address)
John Bell, Director, Ballard Museum of Puppetry, Storrs, Connecticut
Traditional Forms Made Modern: The Ballets Russes and the Rediscovery of Masks and Puppets
Toni Bentley, Los Angeles, California., Author and Former Dancer, New York City Ballet
Ida Rubinstein: Diaghilev's Cleopatra
Jody Blake, Curator, Tobin Theatre Collection, McNay Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas
Natalia Goncharova: Betweem Costume and Scenery
Julie Buckler, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University
The Dying Swan Lives On: Michel Fokine and the Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century
Mary E. Davis, Associate Professor of Music, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
The Ballets Russes and the Fashion for Russia
Samuel N. Dorf, Department of Music, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
“The Ballets Russes and the ‘Greek’ Dance in Paris.”
Iris Fanger, Boston, Massachusetts, Theatre and Dance Critic, Director, Harvard Summer Dance Program, 1977-1995
Sharing a Time, Stage, and Mentor: Léonide Massine and George Balanchine at the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, 1925-1928
Charles M. Joseph, Professor of Music, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York
The Ballets Russes: Stravinsky's Home Away from Home
Thomas Forrest Kelly, Professor of Music, Harvard University
The First Night of The Rite of Spring (Special presentation)
Roy Kimmey, Harvard University
The Truth About The Truth About the Russian Dancers
Anna Kisselgoff, New York City, Chief Dance Critic, The New York Times (1977-2005)
Art for Art's Sake: The Ballets Russes as Embodiment of a Mir Iskusstva Ideal
John E. Malmstad, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University
Back to the Future: The Ballets Russes and the World of Art
Joy Melville, London, England, Writer, Biographer of Diaghilev (2009)
Diaghilev and His Angels
Jean-Michel Nectoux, Paris, France, Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art
Diaghilev Before Diaghilev: Diaghilev in Russia
Julia Randel, Assistant Professor of Music, Hope College, Holland, Michigan
It Would Be Very Spanish: Picasso, de Falla, and Diaghilev's Ballets Espagnols
Christine Ruane, Professor of History, University of Tulsa, Oklahoma
Léon Bakst, the Ballets Russes, and Russian Fashion
Alexander Schouvaloff, London, England, Curator, Theatre Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum (retired)
The Measure of Diaghilev (Keynote address)
Carl B. Schmidt, Professor of Music, Towson University, Maryland
Georges Auric and the Ballets Russes
Laurence Senelick, Professor of Drama and Oratory, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts
and Honorary Curator of Russian Theatre, Harvard Theatre Collection
Models of a Modern Impresario: Diaghilev's Russian Antecedents
Basil Twist, New York City, Puppeteer
Behind the Scenes with Basil Twist's Petrushka: demonstration, performance, and discussion
David Witten, Associate Professor of Music, Montclair State University, New Jersey
Nikolai Tcherepnin and the Ballets Russes
Panelists, Moderators, and Session Chairs
Elizabeth Bergmann, Director and Lecturer, Office for the Arts Harvard Dance Program
Jaime Blanc, Former Associate Artistic Director and Choreographer, Ballet Nacional de Mexico
Hermine Chivian-Cobb, New York City, Dealer and Appraiser
Christine Dakin, Artistic Director Laureate and Former Principal Dancer, Martha Graham Dance Company, New York City
Gordon Hollis, Golden Legend Booksellers, Beverly Hills, California
George Jackson, Washington, D.C., Dance Critic
José Mateo, Artistic Director, José Mateo Ballet Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Jack Megan, Director, Office for the Arts at Harvard
Mikko Nissinen, Artistic Director, Boston Ballet
Paul Stiga, Middleboro, Massachusetts, Collector of Theatrical Designs
Christine Temin, Boston, Massachusetts, Writer and Journalist
Funding and Support
This event is organized and sponsored by the Harvard Theatre Collection of Houghton Library in the Harvard College Library, and co-sponsored by the Office for the Arts at Harvard and the Harvard Dance Program.
The exhibition and symposium are supported by the following endowed funds in the Harvard Theatre Collection:
The Howard D. Rothschild Fund for the Ballets Russes of Serge Diaghilev
The Beatrice, Benjamin, and Richard Bader Fund for the Visual Arts of the Theatre
The Barry Bingham, Sr., Fund for Publications
The Edmond de Rothschild Foundation Fund for Dance
The Parmenia Migel Ekstrom Memorial Fund for Dance
The Walter Terry Memorial Fund for Dance
The John Kasdan Fund for Dance
as well as a gift from Mr. Melvin R. Seiden.
We are also most grateful to the many donors of collections and individual collection items that have been drawn upon in this exhibition, and for the endowed funds that have been used to make purchases of items that are shown in the exhibition. These donors and funds are acknowledged in the captions and labels that are associated with the individual items in the exhibition. Among the collections that have been drawn upon in the exhibition are the following:
The Howard D. Rothschild Collection
The Frederick R. Koch Collection
The Stravinsky-Diaghilev Foundation Collection
The George Chaffee Collection
The Paul Stiga Collection
The A. J. and Tess Pischl Collection
The Carl Taggersell Collection
The New College Theatre is made available for the symposium through the courtesy of the Office for the Arts at Harvard, Jack Megan, Director, and the Harvard Dance Program, Elizabeth Bergmann, Director.
For further information about the exhibition or the symposium, please contact the Harvard Theatre Collection by telephone at 617-495-2445 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: “Le Pavillon d'Armide,” 1909. Principal Characters. Costume design by Alexandre Benois, Paris, 1909. Gouache and pencil. Howard D. Rothschild Collection. Bequest, 1993. Harvard Theatre Collection, MS Thr 414.4.31.