Twentieth Century Ballet

Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

The most revolutionary change of Russian Ballet came in 1909 with Sergei Diaghilev’s “Ballets Russes” or “Russian Ballets.” Diaghilev was the company director of the Russian Imperial Ballet Company with a vision for the future of ballet and wanted to expose Russian art to European culture. “Sergei Diaghilev’s Russian seasons [Ballets Russes] were intended to make the cultural world of Western Europe marvel at the theatrical secrets of Russia” (Leach and Borovsky 197).

In 1910, Diaghilev brought together the stars of the Russian Imperial Ballet, such as Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Mikhail Fokine, Adolph Bolm, Tamara Karsavina, and more. Before Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, ballet troupes were very repetitive, often featuring the same costumes, sets, and movements. Diaghilev was against the established ballet and wanted to create a revolution in it.

The Ballets Russes were a serious of unique ballets reflecting Russian culture while at the same time expressing surreal aspects and introducing exoticism and Oriental themes.