Original Ballet Russe

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The Original Ballet Russe (originally named Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo) was a ballet company established in 1932 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.

The end of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes[edit]

Ballet Russe

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 a month later, on August 19, 1929, of diabetes.

Massine and Balanchine join Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo[edit]

In 1932, with the help from financier Serge Denham, René Blum and Colonel Vassili de Basil formed the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. The idea was to create a ballet company that would continue the work and legacy of the late Serge Diaghilev. 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.

The managers dropped Balanchine after one year because they found that audiences preferred the Diaghilev works choreographed by Massine. The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo struggled financially and almost declared bankruptcy during the Great Depression. Sol Hurok, an American, took over the management of the company in 1934,[1] and brought the company to the United States.

The company splits[edit]

Col. de Basil and Blum had an acrimonious relationship, which ended with Blum breaking up the partnership and leaving with Massine. Together Blum and Massine formed their own company, and recruited several dancers from their previous group. Blum and Massine also called their company Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

At the start of Blum and Massine's company, Massine ran into trouble with Col. de Basil. Massine realized that the ballets which he choreographed while under contract with Col. de Basil were owned by his company. Taking legal action, Massine sued Col. de Basil in London for the intellectual property rights to his works and also tried to claim the name of the company.[1] The jury decided that Col. de Basil owned the ballets. The court ruled that both successor companies could use the name Ballet Russe, but only one could use de Monte Carlo. The courts ruled in favor of Massine regarding the name. Col. de Basil finally settled on the Original Ballet Russe.[1]

Two Ballets Russe[edit]

The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe often performed near each other. Sol Hurok, manager of the Original Ballet Russe, decided to manage Blum and Massine's company as well. He hoped to reunite the companies, but he was unsuccessful. In 1938, both the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe performed in London within blocks of each other.[1] 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.

During World War II[edit]

The Original Ballet Russe did extensive touring throughout Europe and Australia. Soon after they returned to the United States in 1938, World War II broke out. The company suffered financially, but they were able to book an entire cast of dancers on tour to Havana, Cuba, in 1941. They 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. Alberto Alonso and his first wife Patricia Denise danced all the principal roles on the Havana tour. 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.[5] The company was revived in 1951 by family members, G. Kirsta and the Grigrievs, after Col. de Basil died.[5] The company proved to be financially unstable, and folded while on tour in Europe in 1952.


  1. ^ a b c d Andros, Gus Dick (February 1997). "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo". Andros on Ballet. Michael Minn. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 
  2. ^ Villalón, Célida P.; translated by Villalón, Vivian (August 1, 2007). "The Ballet Russe - Ballet Russe de Montecarlo". Danza Ballet. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "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. 
  4. ^ Turnbaugh, Douglas Blair. "Ballets Russes (1909-1962)". glbtq Encyclopedia. glbtq. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Finkelstein, Richard (July 12, 2004). "A Ballets Russes Chronology". International Arts Resources. Artslynx. Retrieved 5 June 2010. 


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. 
  • Anderson, Jack (1981). The One and Only: The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. New York: Dance Horizons. ISBN 0-87127-127-3.