Despite Sergel Diaghilev‘s many failures of attempting the arts, he was a very passionate post-impressionist and cubist. He brought a lot of world famous artists together to collaborate, and they produced great pieces of ballet performances in Paris. Some of the artists that he worked with were Igor Stravinsky for music, Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova for dance, Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel for visual designs. His companies toured around the world and established ballet in the western world by inspiring people like George Balanchine and the Joffreys.
Diaghilev’s art style was a huge contrast to the classical ballet in Europe at that time, so it stormed the art world. When Diaghilev went to Paris in 1906 to enhance the diplomatic relationship between Russia and France, his company Ballets Russes performances stood out because they were so different from the classical ballet that everyone was used to seeing. The fame of his productions was not just about ballet, but about a range of different forms of medias in the cubism styles. For example, the bold, simple and abstract costumes designed by Picasso and Chanel changed the fashion world in France.
(Photo of Vaslav Nijinsky in costume)
Every production of the Ballets Russes was dramatic, exotic and distorted. Instead of the classic roles of princes, princesses, and fairies, Diaghilev’s productions had many abstract creatures such as the monsters and the clowns. Behind the complicated and sometimes chaotic music of these shows were Russian traditional folk melodies. The dancers had to be powerful and versatile to carry their movements differently depending on the characters they played. Often times the movements were not graceful or pretty. Instead, dancers were told to “land like a goat” with restricted and compressed movements. The style allowed more spotlights on male dancers like Vaslav Nijinsky – the most renowned dancer in the company with thick and powerful legs. The stiff movements were later translated into modern dance.
(One of Diaghilev’s signature pieces Petrouchka)