Ballet Russe Arrives in Paris

An All Star Cast of Russian Dancers

Twentieth century ballet began when a Russian theater director and entrepreneur named Serge Diaghilev brought his company, Ballet Russe, to Paris in 1909. He hand selected the cast of all star Russian dancers from the Russian Imperial Theatres to present new choreography in his company's premier Paris performance. For the next two decades, Diaghilev's company traveled throughout Europe, the United States, and South America presenting abstract, avant-garde works that shocked audiences. The dancer's technical virtuosity and artistry would astound the world and usher in a new era of ballet.

Serge Diaghilev (1872-1929)

Diaghilev was an impresario, first presenting art exhibits in Paris, then a series of concerts in Russian, and finally connecting with Russian dance. In 1909, he made a contract for a summer season of Russian ballet in Paris. He gathered an outstanding cast of dancers to present a diverse repertoire. The result was so successful that in 1911, he established the company as Diaghilev's Ballet Russe.

The framework of his vision was a stroke of brilliance. He drew on the talents of the greatest artist of the period, bringing to his company extraordinary groups of dancers, composers, choreographers, and painters.

Meet The Choreographers

Dancers of the Ballet Russe

The company included the best young dancers and choreographers of the time period. A leading and famous Russian ballerina known for her beauty, and her tole in The Firebird was Tamara Karsavina. Serge Lifar debuted with the Ballet Russe in 1923, and is known as one of the greatest male dancers of the 20th century. Lifar later became the ballet master of the Paris Opera Ballet, one of the best ballet companies in the world. Anna Pavlova, regarded as one of the finest classical ballerinas in history was a star in this company, most recognized for her role in Fokine's ballet solo, The Dying Swan.

Diaghilev Dies

Monday, Aug. 19th 1929 at 9pm

Venice, Italy


Abstract Ballet - a ballet without a plot

Avant-Garde - new and unusual or experimental ideas, especially in the arts

Impresario -a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, and/or operas.

Repertoire- a stock of plays, dances, or pieces that a company or a performer knows or is prepared to perform.