Ballet = 2011. Part 4
Diaghilev And The Golden Age Of The Ballet Russes 1909-1929, V&A exhibition
I was first aware of the Ballet Russes when studying for my dissertation ‘how did Chanel define women’s dress between 1909 – 1939’. Taking up a huge space, this exhibition was full of music, colour and costumes. Certainly not a disappointment.It’s now a century since the greatest of impresarios, Serge Diaghilev, brought his Ballets Russes to Europe, creating an artistic revolution that continued for nearly two decades until his death in 1929.
During those years, Diaghilev famously used an array of talent to collaborate on the ballets he presented. The 300 items in this exhibition paid a moving tribute to everyone involved in the Ballet Russes. There were cubist sets and costumes by Picasso, surrealist costumes from De Chirico, jewel coloured costumes from Matisse, along with contributions from Braque.
Taking chronological course through the company’s history, a whole section of the exhibition was devoted to Nijinsky, allowing viewers to ponder how a dancer whose jump became world famous could defy gravity in costumes so heavy and ornate.
The little objects in the exhibition really reminded me of the day-to-day labour that went into the creation of the Ballets Russes legend: a display of ballet shoes, stained and worn; the manuscript for Stravinsky’s Firebird, crisscrossed with pencil and blue crayon; and a collection of Diaghilev’s personal items.
A truly magical exhibition.
Another exhibition to look out for: The Proud Gallery in London has just launched its first ever dedicated ballet exhibition. Fifty Years Of The Ballet, a collection of beautiful images from dancer-turned-photographer Colin Jones. He has captured the life behind the scenes at the Royal Ballet School. Until the 6th March – Kings Road, Chelsea. Proud.