Wassily de Basil

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Wassily de Basil
Vassily Grigorievich Voskresensky

(1888-09-16)16 September 1888
Died27 July 1951(1951-07-27) (aged 62)
Other namesColonel W. de Basil
Occupationballet impresario
Known forCo-founder of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo

Wassily de Basil (16 September 1888 – 27 July 1951), usually referred to as Colonel W. de Basil, was a Russian ballet impresario.

De Basil was born Vassily Grigorievich Voskresensky in Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1888 (his year of birth is given variously as 1880 or 1886.) He is said to have been a colonel in the Cossack army,[1] although his claim to the title "Colonel" is disputed. De Basil was demobilised from the army in 1919 and worked as an entrepreneur in Paris.

Following the death of Sergei Diaghilev in 1929, the members of his Ballets Russes went in many directions. Around 1925, de Basil partnered with Aleksey Tseretelli (also Zereteli) and Ignaty Zon to form the artists agency called Zerbason[2]. In 1929–1930 de Basil's ballet troupe acted together with Aleksey Tsereteli’s opera troupe.[3] De Basil, Tseretelli and Michel Kachouk, the manager of Feodor Chaliapin, became directors of the Opéra Russe à Paris, a company originally formed by soprano Maria Kousnetsova (also Maria Kuznetzova).[2]

De Basil and René Blum, ballet director at the Monte Carlo Opera, along with financier Serge Denham, founded the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo in 1931.[4] The ballet gave its first performance in Monte Carlo in 1932.

Blum and de Basil did not agree artistically, leading to a 1934 split,[5] after which de Basil hooked up with financier Sol Hurok.[5] Col. de Basil initially renamed the company Ballets Russes de Colonel W. de Basil.[6]

Members of the group abord RMS Maloja, 1 September 1938.

In 1937, René Blum and former Ballets Russes choreographer Léonide Massine organized a new ballet company[7] and lured away some of de Basil's dancers. In addition, 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.[8] The jury decided that de Basil owned Massine's ballets created between 1932 and 1937, but not those created before 1932.[9] 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, as the Covent Garden Russian Ballet. In 1939, he gave the company its final name, the Original Ballet Russe.[6]

De Basil brought the Original Ballet Russe on a tour of Australia in 1939–1940.[4], travelling there aboard the P&O ocean liner RMS Maloja in September 1938. He had earlier organised tours to Australia in 1936–1937 and 1938–1939, although he did not travel with the company. 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.

He directed Ballets Russes companies, which performed under a variety of different names, until his death in Nice in 1951.


  1. ^ Walker, Kathrine Sorley. De Basil's Ballets Russes (Dance Books Ltd, 2010) ISBN 0 09 147510 4.
  2. ^ a b Sorley Walker, Kathrine (1983). De Basil's Ballets Russes. New York: Atheneum. p. 5.
  3. ^ ru: Грузинский князь и русская опера (Le prince géorgien et l'opéra russe)
  4. ^ a b Amanda. "Ballets Russes", The Age (17 July 2005)
  5. ^ a b Homans, Jennifer. "René Blum: Life of a Dance Master," New York Times (July 8, 2011).
  6. ^ a b "Les Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo". The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. 2004. Retrieved 2010-03-28.
  7. ^ "BLUM BALLET SOLD TO COMPANY HERE; World Art, Inc., Formed by Julius Fleischmann, Takes Over Monte Carlo Troupe," New York Times (November 20, 1937)
  8. ^ Andros, Gus Dick (February 1997). "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo". Andros on Ballet. Michael Minn. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
  9. ^ australiadancing through the Internet Archive

External links[edit]