Twentieth Century Ballet

Themes of the Ballets Russes

The Ballets Russes were considered revolutionary, barbaric, Oriental, exotic, controversial, and luxurious all combined into one. As previously mentioned, they were a serious of unique ballets reflecting Russian culture while at the same time expressing surreal aspects and introducing exoticism and Oriental themes. Some of the themes of the Ballets Russes were otherworldly, lush, emotionally frenzied, antimodern, and anti-individualistic—the corps de ballet had just a significant role as the principals to “express collectivist intent” (Marks 184).

In the Oriental and Middle Eastern ballets, such as Cleopatra, Scheherazade, and Afternoon of a Faun, many shocking, somewhat disturbing eroticism themes were used to shock the public and draw an audience with their controversy. A clip from Scheherazade is shown below.
The Ballets with Russian settings, like Firebird, Petrushka, and The Golden Cokerel, included urban carnival and folk themes to expose the Russian culture.