Original Ballet Russe
|Original Ballet Russe|
|Name||Original Ballet Russe|
|Previous names||Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo
Ballets Russes de Colonel W. de Basil
Covent Garden Russian Ballet
|Founders||René Blum and Colonel Wassily de Basil|
|Principal venue||Monte Carlo|
|Company Manager||Sol Hurok|
|Artistic Director||Colonel Wassily de Basil|
|Resident Choreographers||Leonide Massine (1932–1937)
George Balanchine (1932–1933)
Michel Fokine (1937–c. 1941)
The Original Ballet Russe (originally named Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo) was a ballet company established in 1931 by René Blum and Colonel Wassily de Basil as a successor to the Ballets Russes, founded in 1909 by Sergei Diaghilev. The company assumed the new name Original Ballet Russe after a split between de Basil and Blum. De Basil led the renamed company, while Blum and others founded a new company under the name, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.
Dissolution of Ballets Russes and formation of Ballets Russe de Monte Carlo
The company's name is derived from the Ballets Russes of impresario Sergei Diaghilev. The last season of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was 1929, during which it toured and performed in both London, England, and Paris, France. During the final season, it produced the new ballets The Prodigal Son and Le Bal. The company performed for the final time in London at the Covent Garden Theatre on July 26, 1929. Diaghliev died of diabetes a month later, on August 19, 1929.
Massine and Balanchine join
The company hired Leonide Massine and George Balanchine as choreographers. The majority of the works performed had previously been staged by Diaghilev's company, but other new works were commissioned, as Jeux d'enfants, with music of George Bizet and sets by Joan Miró. Featured dancers included David Lichine, Tatiana Riabouchinska, and Tamara Toumanova. The ballet gave its first performance in Monte Carlo in 1932.
Without consulting Blum, Col. de Basil dropped Balanchine after one year — ostensibly because he thought that audiences preferred the works choreographed by Massine. Dancer Lichine began choreographing ballets for the company.
The company struggled financially in the wake of the Great Depression, and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Sol Hurok, an American, took over the management of the Ballet Russe and brought the company to the United States.
The company splits
In 1937, Massine left, joining with Blum to form their own company, recruiting several dancers from their previous group. However, the ballets which Massine had choreographed while under contract with Col. de Basil were owned by his company. Massine sued 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. The jury decided that de Basil owned Massine's ballets. 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 renamed his company again, calling it the Covent Garden Russian Ballet and bringing on Michel Fokine as resident choreographer.
The company toured extensively throughout Europe and Australia, visiting Australia in 1936–37, 1938–39, and 1939–40. During his visit to Australia, de Basil commissioned work from Australians, especially from designers, who included Sidney Nolan and Kathleen and Florence Martin. He also instigated a design competition for an original Australian ballet, which was won by Donald Friend with designs for a ballet based on a fictitious event in the life of Ned Kelly.
Sol Hurok ended up managing Blum and Massine's company as well. The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe often performed near each other. In 1938, both companies performed in London within blocks of each other. After London, Hurok booked both of the companies to perform 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. Hurok continued to have the companies perform near each other; he hoped to reunite the companies, but ultimately was unsuccessful.
Finally, in 1939, Col. de Basil gave the company its final name, the Original Ballet Russe.
During World War II
Soon after they returned to the United States in 1939, World War II broke out. The company suffered financially, but was able to book an entire cast of dancers on tour to Havana, Cuba, in 1941. Alberto Alonso and his first wife Patricia Denise danced all the principal roles on the Havana tour. The company could not pay the dancers adequately, and some took second jobs in nightclubs to survive. Principal dancers were forced to take roles that were not solos.
While in Cuba, David Lichine and Tatiana Leskova appeared in Conga Pantera at the Cabaret Tropicana. Other dancers included Tamara Grigorieva, Nina Verchinina, Anna Leontieva, Genevieve Moulin, Tatiana Leskova, Anna Volkova, Your Lazowski, Dimitri Romanoff, Roman Jasinski, Paul Petroff, and Oleg Tupin.
In 1947, the Original Ballet Russe gave its last season in London before disbanding. The company was revived in 1951 by family members, G. Kirsta and the Grigrievs, after Col. de Basil died. The company proved to be financially unstable, and folded while on tour in Europe in 1952.
In popular culture
A feature documentary about the company, featuring interviews with many of the dancers, was released in 2005, with the title Ballets Russes.
A Thousand Encores: Ballets Russes in Australia was a documentary screened on ABC Television on November 3, 2009, about the company's three visits to Australia between 1936 and 1940. The documentary claims that there is more footage of the Ballet Russes in Australia than anywhere else in the world. Some film was in colour, a rarity for that time.
- Michel Fokine's Paganini
- 1941 Havana tour
- Amanda. "Ballets Russes", The Age (17 July 2005)
- Homans, Jennifer. "René Blum: Life of a Dance Master," New York Times (July 8, 2011).
- "Les Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo". The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. 2004. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
- Andros, Gus Dick (February 1997). "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo". Andros on Ballet. Michael Minn. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- "BLUM BALLET SOLD TO COMPANY HERE; World Art, Inc., Formed by Julius Fleischmann, Takes Over Monte Carlo Troupe," New York Times (November 20, 1937).
- Finkelstein, Richard (July 12, 2004). "A Ballets Russes Chronology". International Arts Resources. Artslynx. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- García-Márques, Vicente. Massine: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 1995).
- "Catalogue Information on 'Artists of the company, in Graduation ball, The Original Ballet Russe, Australian tour, His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, 1940', picture by Hugh P. Hall". Hugh P. Hall collection of photographs, 1938-1940. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- Villalón, Célida P.; translated by Villalón, Vivian (August 1, 2007). "The Ballet Russe - Ballet Russe de Montecarlo". Danza Ballet. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- Turnbaugh, Douglas Blair. "Ballets Russes (1909-1962)". glbtq Encyclopedia. glbtq. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- "Les Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo". The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford University Press. 2000, 2004. Retrieved 5 June 2010. Check date values in:
- Sorley Walker, Kathrine. 1982. De Basil's Ballets Russes. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-147510-4; New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0-689-11365-X.