Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo

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This article is about the ballet company. For the 2005 feature documentary, see Ballets Russes (documentary).
Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo
General information
Name Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo
Year founded 1937
Closed 1968
Founders Léonide Massine and René Blum
Principal venue various
Senior staff
Company Manager Sol Hurok
Artistic staff
Ballet Master Frederic Franklin, 1944–1952
Resident Choreographers Léonide Massine
Associated schools School of American Ballet
  • Principal
  • Soloist
  • Corps de Ballet
The company performs The Nutcracker in 1940.

Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo was a ballet company created by members of the Ballets Russes in 1937 after Léonide Massine and René Blum had a falling-out with the co-founder Wassily de Basil (usually referred to as Colonel W. de Basil). De Basil then renamed his rival company The Original Ballet Russe.

The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo featured such dancers as Frederic Franklin, Alexandra Danilova, Maria Tallchief, Tamara Toumanova, George Zoritch, Cyd Charisse, Marc Platt, and Leon Danielian. The company's resident choreographer was Massine; it also featured the choreography of Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Ruth Page and Valerie Bettis.

The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo toured chiefly in the United States after World War II began. The company introduced audiences to ballet in cities and towns across the country, in many places where people had never seen classical dance. The company's principal dancers performed with other companies, and founded dance schools and companies of their own across the United States and Europe. They taught the Russian ballet traditions to generations of Americans and Europeans.


Blum and de Basil fell out in 1934, and their Ballet Russes partnership dissolved.[1] After working desperately to keep ballet alive in Monte Carlo, in 1937 Blum and former Ballet Russes choreographer Léonide Massine acquired financing from Julius Fleischmann, Jr.'s World Art, Inc. to create a new ballet company.[2]

At the start of Blum and Massine's company, Massine ran into trouble with Col. de Basil: the ballets which Massine choreographed while under contract with Col. de Basil were owned by his company. Massine sued Col. de Basil in London to regain the intellectual property rights to his own works. He also sued to claim the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo name.[3] The jury decided that Col. de Basil owned Massine's ballets created between 1932 and 1937, but not those created before 1932.[4] It also ruled that both successor companies could use the name Ballet Russe — but only Massine & Blum's company could be called Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Col. de Basil finally settled on the Original Ballet Russe.[3]

The new Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo gave its first performance in 1938. British dancers Frederic Franklin and Jo Savino were also among those who joined the new company. Franklin danced with the company from 1938–1952, assuming the role of ballet master in 1944. With the company, Franklin and Alexandra Danilova created one of the legendary ballet partnerships of the twentieth century.

Maria Tallchief and Frederic Franklin in a 1955 advertisement for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo

Sol Hurok, manager of de Basil's company since 1934, ended up managing Blum's company as well. He hoped to reunite the tow ballet companies, but he was unsuccessful.

The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe often performed near each other. In 1938, both the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe performed in London within blocks of each other.[3] Hurok continued to have the companies perform near each other. After London, Hurok booked both of the companies to perform seasons in New York, for a total of fifteen weeks, making it the longest ballet season of New York. Along with management, the two companies also shared dancers.

Co-founder René Blum was arrested on December 12, 1941, in his Parisian home, among the first Jews to be arrested in Paris by the French police after France was defeated and occupied by the German Nazis during World War II. He was held in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp, then in the Drancy deportation camp. On September 23, 1942, he was shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp,[5][6] where he was later killed by the Nazis.[1]

Massine left the company in 1943.

In 1968, the company went bankrupt. Before then, many of its dancers had moved on to other careers; a number started their own studios and many taught ballet in larger studios, especially in New York and other major cities.


Many of the company's principal dancers and corps de ballet founded dance schools and companies of their own across the United States and Europe, teaching the Russian ballet traditions to generations of Americans and Europeans.

Choreographers and principal dancers[edit]

Corps de ballet[edit]

  • Marian and Illaria Ladre — in the late 1940s, they set up the Ballet Academy in Seattle, where they taught students who went on to dance and teach in their turn. Students of theirs who had professional dance careers included James De Bolt of the Joffrey Ballet, Cyd Charisse, Marc Platt, Harold Lang, and Ann Reinking.
  • Illaria Ladre — in 1994 was among the first American dancers, choreographers and writers honored by receiving the newly established Vaslav Nijinsky Medal, sponsored by the Polish Artists Agency in Warsaw, for work carrying on the tradition of Nijinsky.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

A feature documentary about the company, featuring interviews with many of the dancers, was released in 2005, with the title Ballets Russes.



  1. ^ a b Homans, Jennifer. "René Blum: Life of a Dance Master," New York Times (July 8, 2011).
  2. ^ "Blum Ballet Sold to Company Here," New York Times (Nov. 20, 1937).
  3. ^ a b c Andros, Gus Dick (February 1997). "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo". Andros on Ballet. Michael Minn. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 
  4. ^ australiadancing through the Internet Archive
  5. ^ Gilbert, Martin (2002). The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust. Psychology Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-415-28145-4. 
  6. ^ The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 32 (Part 5 of 5), Georges Wellers testimony at the trial of Eichmann.
  7. ^ Anderson, Jack. "Leon Danielian, 75, Ballet Star Known for His Wide Repertory". NY Times. Retrieved 9 December 2013. 
  8. ^ KISSELGOFF, ANNA. "Robert Lindgren, 89, Ballet Dancer and College Dean, Is Dead". NY Times. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  9. ^ Whitaker, Lauren. "ROBERT LINDGREN, FOUNDING DEAN OF UNCSA SCHOOL OF DANCE, HAS DIED Winston-Salem resident was known throughout the world of dance". UNCSA. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  10. ^ Awards to Americans in Honor of Nijinsky, New York Times, 26 November 1994, Accessed 15 November 2007

Sources consulted[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Garcia-Marquez, Vicente (1990). The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-152. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-52875-1. 
  • Sorley Walker, Kathrine (1982). De Basil's Ballets Russes. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0-689-11365-X. 
  • Anderson, Jack (1981). The One and Only: The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Dance Horizons. ISBN 0-87127-127-3. 

External links[edit]