The Ballets Russes

The Ballets Russes was a traveling ballet company founded by Sergei Diaghilev and comprised of highly skilled dancers, most of whom had classical training from Russian Imperial schools in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Company traveled throughout Europe and the United States from 1909 to 1929. The Company breathed new life into ballet by combining highly trained dancers, choreography, music, costume, and set design in a collaborative fashion where each contributor was significant in the overall presentation. Many great artists of the 20th century worked with the company; these included: Anna Pavlova, Ida Rubinstein, Vaslav Najinsky, Marius Petipa, Michll Folkine, George Balanchine, Alexandre Benois, Leon Bakst, Pablo Picasso, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, and more.

Several books and articles are readily available for further research on the Ballets Russes Students of the Salimpour Certification program are encouraged to learn more about the Ballets Russes and its contributions to dance, costume, and set design as well as its role in Orientalism. View the costuming for performances like Cleopatra (1909) and Scheherezade (1910) and note any connections to current belly dance costuming and presentation.

Below is an informative documentary, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music (2013), that was written, produced, and directed by Carroll Moore for the National Gallery of Art.


Photo:  Scheherezade costume design by Leon Bakst.