For Art's Sake - The Story of Ballets Russes


For Art's Sake - The Story of Ballets Russes

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MUSIC PLAYS

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On May 29th, 1913,

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on the stage of the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris,

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these moments from The Rite of Spring

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were arguably the most dramatic the ballet world had ever seen.

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And its power to shock remains even today.

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It was one of the defining moments

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in the lives of three of the most brilliant and radical artists

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of the 20th century, all of them Russian.

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Dancer and choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky,

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composer Igor Stravinsky

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and impresario, Serge Diaghilev.

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Their collaboration, as well as those of other great artists,

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composers, dancers and designers,

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made Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

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the most influential ballet company of the 20th century.

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The effect of Diaghilev is everywhere.

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There was the most tremendous sexy excitement

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about all things Russian and artistic.

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Diaghilev was the boss of everything and everyone

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and every detail of every single thing.

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Diaghilev was a terrible man to work for

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because he was 100% the Ballets Russes.

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Diaghilev saved Western ballet.

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At the beginning of the 20th century,

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ballet had become outdated and was in need of re-energising.

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In Russia, it was largely the plaything of the Tsar

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and St Petersburg was its artistic home.

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Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty,

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with their fabulous Tchaikovsky scores, still dominated the landscape

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and very little innovative work was being made.

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One man had the vision to see how this dying art form

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could be reborn - Serge Diaghilev.

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A key player in the St Petersburg arts scene,

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he'd already presented Russian art, music and opera in Paris,

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the cultural centre of the world at this time.

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Paris genuinely was the home of the modernists.

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Gertrude Stein had moved there.

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Picasso was there. Brecht was there.

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So much modernism was happening there.

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It's the perfect place for Diaghilev getting away from Russia.

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Russia, in the 19th century,

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its culture, its second language was French.

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Everything was Paris, that was the centre of the universe,

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the way New York became after World War Two.

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That's where you went. Not to die, but to live.

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Whilst other arts were thriving in Paris,

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ballet was not taken seriously.

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Ballet in Paris had itself become desperately, desperately moribund.

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Having once been the absolute showcase of European ballet,

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it was now pretty much about just

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ballerinas and their pretty legs.

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It was against this backdrop that Diaghilev sensed an opportunity

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and in 1909 he took a small group of dancers on tour to Paris.

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The seeds of the Ballets Russes were sown.

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The venue for his first season was the Chatelet Theatre.

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Diaghilev wanted to launch his new ballet company in style,

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so he insisted it was refurbished.

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All the ballets on the opening night were choreographed by Michel Fokine,

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a protege of Diaghilev's

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who was beginning to update ballet back in Russia.

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The audience was also introduced to the sensational 19-year-old dancer,

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Vaslav Nijinsky.

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Over the next four years, he would re-write the language of ballet.

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But the real star of the first night was the exotic,

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and very Russian, Polotsvian Dances from the opera Prince Igor.

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One of Diaghilev's selling cards from the beginning

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was the idea that Russia was a source of primitivism.

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Men were hunters, hunter-gatherers, jumping like mad.

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Diaghilev brings in all the wildness of Ancient Russia, as it seemed.

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So that on opening night, in Paris in 1909,

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the greatest sensation of three sensational ballets

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was the Polotsvian dancers from Prince Igor.

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This was the greatest sensation of the entire evening.

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The Paris audience went nuts and invaded the theatre,

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so much so that they rushed through the orchestra pit onto the stage

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and, for the final ballet of the evening, Le Festin,

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Nijinsky and Karsavina found themselves warming up

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with all the Parisians on stage trying to watch.

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And they had to be finally cleared off.

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APPLAUSE

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The opening season was a triumph.

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Sadly, Diaghilev never approved of the Ballets Russes being filmed.

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So it's through revivals by today's dance companies

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that we can sense the impact they must have had.

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In the first four years alone,

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Diaghilev would produce over twenty ballets and this level of ambition

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meant he was always on the hunt for sources of income,

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spending much of his time wooing

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the grandest and most well heeled of Parisian society.

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Initially, of course, there was support from Russia.

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There were grand dukes, there were wealthy businessmen

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who were interested in putting in their money.

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He was also a very good negotiator.

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Then, of course, there are very bored and idle

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American millionairesses in Paris,

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who are crazy about being seen as up-to-date

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and are willing to put money into productions sometimes,

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but really want good seats, good boxes, and to be conspicuous.

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The Princesse de Polignac,

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who was heiress to the Singer sewing machine fortune

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from the United States, she was a very good patron.

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So long as she could be in charge of pulling the puppet strings.

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Diaghilev's dealings with the rich women he pursued were helped

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by the high artistic standards of The Ballet Russes,

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as well as the quality of performers appearing on stage.

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Diaghilev was really lucky in that,

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coming up through the ranks of the Imperial Ballet,

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was an astonishing generation of dancers.

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At the top of it was Anna Pavlova,

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already a star, but she did lead his first Paris season.

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That extraordinary haunting, romantic delicacy

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that mesmerised audiences around the world.

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I did see Pavlova and I saw all of the things that she was famous for.

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And I did see the Dying Swan.

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She had these phenomenal arms, with not a bone anywhere.

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And then suddenly... and then she was, and the face,

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and the... it was uncanny, it really was.

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He doesn't promote Anna Pavlova

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and Anna Pavlova gets out of the Ballets Russes pretty early on

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because she realises she's not going to be presented as the queen bee,

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which she felt ballet was about.

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Following in Pavlova's footsteps is always daunting for a dancer

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and the iconic role of the Dying Swan

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is one of the great challenges for every ballerina.

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Elena Glurdjidze, principal ballerina with English National Ballet,

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is delighted to be given the chance to interpret the role.

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She's being coached on stage by ex-ballerina, Maina Gielgud.

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It all happens completely co-ordinated.

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'I never even could hope to do The Swan

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'because I always thought I didn't have good enough arms.'

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This is also working.

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I thought, "It's almost impossible."

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And then people were saying to me, "Oh, you've got beautiful arms."

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After 15 years dancing on stage!

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But it is difficult, because to have this smoothness

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and great movement, it's not easy.

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And you have to have this perfect poise,

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which should be very, very fast,

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but at the same time without any extra movement.

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Because you have to, almost like a sweep, without extra...

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English National Ballet asked Chanel's creative director

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Karl Lagerfeld to reinterpret the costume.

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It has to be fragile,

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but it has to be also something that can resist more than one night.

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And it must be something what gives total freedom for the movement.

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We have materials today that didn't exist then.

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But in fact, this costume is an updated version of a classic idea,

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a swan is a swan. So there is not so much you can change

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because if it looked like a chicken, it wouldn't be right!

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Ballerinas love to do it.

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They get up there and they die.

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And it's short, it can be thrown on at any time,

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and everybody is always ready to do it.

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Despite the artistic success of their opening season,

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it was a financial disaster.

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However, Diaghilev was confident

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that the positive public reaction to the Ballets Russes

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meant he could continue to raise the necessary funds

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to keep the company running.

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In 1910, they returned to Paris and premiered

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one of the most successful works in their history - Sheherazade.

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English National Ballet are performing Sheherazade

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in their Ballets Russes celebratory season.

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The range of dance styles,

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from near pantomime to great technical virtuosity,

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means it requires several weeks of rehearsal.

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You should really be leaning on him.

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A lot of the dancers in the company had never seen Sheherazade.

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They'd only read about it or seen photographs in a book.

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And I think history is very important as an artist,

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that you learn from the past and take that and create your future.

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When we first started rehearsing, the dancers

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found it a bit of of a giggle, you know, and a little bit ridiculous.

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But once they got into the spirit of it, you know, it's great fun.

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I wonder if we could make it a little bit more sensual?

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'When I was young, 18, I saw Sheherazade'

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and I always dreamed about that Sheherazade and then I saw

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the casting here, that I'm doing Ballets Russes. I was amazed, happy.

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Michel Fokine set the story to Rimsky-Korsakov's thrilling score

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and Nijinsky, who by now was acknowledged as the greatest

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male dancer in the world, performed the role of the Golden Slave.

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Marie Rambert, who had a close working relationship with Nijinsky,

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recalls the impression he made on her.

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I can say definitely that I have never seen anybody like him,

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or anybody who made that tremendous impression that he made.

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Often people say, "Did he really jump so high?"

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And I always say, "I don't know how far from the ground,

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"but I know it was near the stars."

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Because of his phenomenal technique, some audiences believed he must be

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hanging from invisible wires, because he seemed to jump so high.

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Nijinsky was not a beautiful man. Nijinsky was a strange looking guy.

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Very thick, not much of a waist.

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Enormous thighs, which is where the jump came from.

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He was apparently an absolutely thrilling performer.

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What everyone attests to is what a great actor he was

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and how he had an uncanny ability to become emblematic.

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Nijinsky's partner in Sheherazade

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was the actress and dancer Ida Rubinstein,

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whom Diaghilev cannily retained more for her exotic value

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than her limited dancing ability.

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She paraded round Paris with a python on a lead

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and drank champagne out of lilies

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and that all got the French very stirred up and excited.

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Rubinstein was often called the Queen of Gesture!

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She wasn't a ballet dancer, but she was a wonderful presence.

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She had a beautiful body.

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It was about personality and temperament,

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and money in Ida Rubinstein's case, cos she had it!

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Which made it easier for her to have works in which she could star.

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But Diaghilev saw how valuable she could be and used her.

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He could use her languor, her sexuality,

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her sheer beauty and the glamour of that face.

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Very much like the sirens of the silent screen at the same time.

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The most sexy thing anybody had seen in Paris.

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You can imagine how excited they all were.

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The music is to do with Sinbad the Sailor,

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nothing to do with the oriental orgy that we see,

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the harem drama that happens on stage.

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So it's very imaginative, almost shocking musicality,

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if you analyse it, what Fokine chose to do.

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To say, "No, this ballet's going to be about another aspect

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"of the Arabian nights than the one that Rimsky thought he was telling."

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Fokine used that to experiment

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with a very new, for him, style of language,

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which was all about the rippling, undulating dynamic of Eastern dance.

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Sheherazade's exotic Oriental design

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was by Diaghilev's long-time collaborator, Leon Bakst.

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The design was one of the Ballet Russes' most impressive

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and the ballet influenced every elegant sitting room

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in Paris for years to come.

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After seeing Sheherazade, the writer Marcel Proust

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wrote to a friend saying he had never seen anything so beautiful.

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Bakst's influence on the whole world of design, interior decorating,

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fashion, was quite extraordinary and incredibly difficult to quantify.

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But I think that we live today with his influence in our lives,

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in our sense of colour, in our sense of pattern.

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I mean, he did outrageous things with pattern.

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He would put diamond pattern against check.

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He would do sort of zigzags against solid colour.

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It was mind-bending what he did.

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Before the war, no single designer was as important as Leon Bakst.

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He seemed to exult in this combination

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of eroticism and exoticism

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that accounted for so much of the success

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of so many of the ballets.

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And, of course, in Bakst's designs, when you see these breasts

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kind of overwhelming the designs,

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that there was a real kind of physical freedom.

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They still are the costumes that Bakst did today,

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just to look at them, they haven't lost any of their relevance

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and they're just incredible.

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An endless source of inspiration

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for both fashion designers, stylists, all of us.

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For me, he is the person who remains the true spirit

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of the Diaghilev ballet

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and he was the one who really brought it, artistically,

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to the forefront of people's minds and imaginations.

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After the spectacular success of Sheherazade,

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the choreographer Michel Fokine was then given the opportunity

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to collaborate with someone who was going to shape

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not only the future of the Ballet Russes,

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but the entire musical landscape of the 20th century -

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the young Russian composer, Igor Stravinsky.

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He and Fokine started to work on a new ballet The Firebird,

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the 27-year-old Stravinsky's first ballet score.

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Once Stravinsky and Diaghilev started to work together

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they were ideally matched

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because Diaghilev always wanted something new

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and Stravinsky wanted to reinvent himself every season.

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The young Stravinsky, unknown,

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no one knew what they were going to get from him.

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He was taught by Rimsky-Korsakov and so there's a sound

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of Rimsky-Korsakov in the orchestration.

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But then he goes way off piste and does his own thing.

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Firebird has many influences but the writing is exceptionally...

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For a young composer that was the first big score,

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the master writing of the orchestra is amazing.

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After that, Stravinsky will not be better.

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He will do other things but one cannot say

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that the orchestration of Rite Of Spring is better than Firebird -

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it's not true.

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The leading role of The Firebird

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was danced by Anna Pavlova's successor

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as the prima ballerina of the Ballets Russes, Tamara Karsavina.

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I loved it, I loved the sound of it, I was fascinated.

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It was very difficult

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and I never was one to count because it distracts my attention,

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I never counted the bars.

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Stravinsky was very kind.

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He would come before the rehearsal

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and play the piano for me to explain all the different parts.

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And then it became a great help for me.

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Following the success of The Firebird,

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Stravinsky and Fokine's next collaboration Petrouchka,

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was set in an 1830's St Petersburg winter fair.

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First performed in 1911,

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Fokine created a juicy lead role for Nijinsky

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whose interpretation of the tormented puppet

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was considered to be one of the greatest roles of his career.

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With Petrouchka, it was already something much more shaking

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with the music and the kind of mixture of music 'savant',

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as say say, music of people

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who know how to write and popular music.

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Although the Fokine/Stravinsky collaboration

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had already produced two enduring ballets,

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Diaghilev, always challenging pre-conceptions,

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was anxious to try Nijinsky - now his lover - as a choreographer,

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wanting to give the ballet world

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another jolt along his modernist path.

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Diaghilev realised that at all costs he had to hang onto Stravinsky,

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but he dumped Fokine as the chief choreographer of the Ballets Russes.

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It's very hard to understand why or how

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Nijinsky became choreographer.

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In none of his works did he use conventional ballet technique.

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The movement was very strange and radical for ballet dancers,

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and so he was not popular with dancers.

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Most of them absolutely loathed his choreography.

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Hated it. Thought it made them look terrible,

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felt that it was impossible to learn,

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felt that he was making ballet ugly.

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But as for why he wanted these unballetic movements...

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He was an experimentalist.

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Why did Picasso do what he did?

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Why did Picasso put the woman's nose in her armpit?

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Designed by Leon Bakst, Nijinsky's first ballet was a simple story

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of an adolescent faun responding to a group of nymphs

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appearing out of a forest.

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The whole action was from one wing to the other.

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It was a very difficult position to hold.

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Feet both parallel were going in one direction

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and the body was facing the audience

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and the arms were facing the audience but you walked on one line.

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But at that time one only had learned the classical technique,

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so it's more astonishing that Nijinsky should have been able

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to think out a new position

0:25:410:25:43

in which he wanted to do the movements and move in them.

0:25:430:25:48

Rather than being teamed up with Stravinsky immediately,

0:25:580:26:02

Diaghilev and Nijinsky

0:26:020:26:03

chose an existing and melodic score by Debussy.

0:26:030:26:06

His music was still radical but in a nice way

0:26:130:26:17

and not in the brutal way of Stravinsky.

0:26:170:26:21

And therefore it was less noticed, especially L'Apres-midi d'un Faune.

0:26:210:26:26

The work of Debussy was known for a long time already,

0:26:260:26:30

the Debussy piece was performed 1894.

0:26:300:26:33

So that was no problem at all to listen to this piece of Debussy.

0:26:330:26:37

From our perspective it seems pretty.

0:26:400:26:43

In fact, it would not have seemed pretty

0:26:430:26:46

when Debussy was doing what he was doing.

0:26:460:26:48

He was being deliberately mischievous.

0:26:480:26:51

He wanted to create an atmosphere of sensuality.

0:26:510:26:54

If you went to a concert in your best bib and tucker

0:26:540:26:57

you did not expect to your senses tingled

0:26:570:27:00

in the way Debussy had in mind.

0:27:000:27:02

Diaghilev knew what was good for business.

0:27:060:27:08

Quite often the theme was sex.

0:27:080:27:10

The big scandalous example is L'Apres-midi d'un Faune

0:27:100:27:13

where a faun wakes and for the first time discovers sensual adventure.

0:27:130:27:16

For the first time he sees nymphs,

0:27:160:27:18

can't get anywhere even with the leading nymph.

0:27:180:27:20

He has a very striking duet with her

0:27:200:27:22

but it doesn't quite lead to eroticism.

0:27:220:27:24

So when she's gone he satisfies himself with her scarf

0:27:240:27:28

and has this extraordinary gesture of fetishism

0:27:280:27:31

where he lies down on her scarf and achieves satisfaction that way.

0:27:310:27:35

End of ballet - shock, horror!

0:27:350:27:38

The business at the end, that was something else!

0:27:380:27:41

Getting up the stairs and getting out the thing

0:27:410:27:45

and lying on it, and the hands at the end.

0:27:450:27:47

It was...

0:27:470:27:49

Quite something.

0:27:490:27:50

When I saw it for the first time I thought,

0:27:500:27:53

"Oooh! This is a bit much but there you are."

0:27:530:27:56

That certainly was very shocking.

0:28:230:28:27

The ending and the scandal that that provoked

0:28:270:28:30

clouded the rest of the ballet.

0:28:300:28:33

The scandal created by Afternoon Of A Faun naturally delighted Diaghilev

0:28:370:28:42

and gave fresh impetus to their European touring schedule.

0:28:420:28:46

Barcelona was one of their stop offs and English National Ballet

0:28:460:28:50

have brought their Ballet Russes programme here.

0:28:500:28:53

Artistic director Wayne Eagling wanted to celebrate the Ballet Russes

0:28:530:28:57

in a way in which Diaghilev would have approved.

0:28:570:29:00

I wanted to celebrate the 100th anniversary

0:29:000:29:03

of the Ballet Russes in Paris.

0:29:030:29:06

But also I wanted to celebrate that fact that we are

0:29:060:29:09

a direct descendant of this phenomena that Diaghilev created.

0:29:090:29:14

I wanted what Diaghilev would have done, something brand new.

0:29:140:29:18

Choreographing his own version of Afternoon Of A Faun

0:29:230:29:26

for English National Ballet,

0:29:260:29:28

was David Dawson's way of paying his homage to Nijinsky.

0:29:280:29:31

The Ballet Russes represents, to me,

0:29:310:29:35

the reason to be creative because their works live 100 years later

0:29:350:29:38

and everyone is still talking about them.

0:29:380:29:41

The beginning of Faun when you hear the first note,

0:29:430:29:46

he's busy for 100 years just dancing throughout all these shapes

0:29:460:29:50

and then, 100 years later, we hear that music again.

0:29:500:29:53

PIANO PLAYS A NOTE

0:29:530:29:54

Ding... And it's like that 100 years goes boom!

0:29:540:30:00

Raphael is an older dancer and Esteban is a younger dancer so

0:30:050:30:09

this narrative became an afternoon of a dancer's life almost.

0:30:090:30:15

The career being something you've learnt so much,

0:30:150:30:18

you have all your information,

0:30:180:30:20

and once you get to that point where you know everything,

0:30:200:30:24

your body gives up on you,

0:30:240:30:25

but passing on that information to a younger dancer and saying,

0:30:250:30:29

"Now they're your public for the next 15 years."

0:30:290:30:33

I decided to use two pianos because I wanted the music to be more sober,

0:30:400:30:45

less emotional in the sense of it being so dramatic.

0:30:450:30:49

So, colourful, more private, actually, more intimate.

0:30:490:30:53

You've got this very hot, hazy, drowsy, sexy atmosphere

0:31:320:31:38

that's about sexual fascination.

0:31:380:31:42

It feels completely 21st Century

0:31:420:31:44

and yet it's absolutely redolent with dance history.

0:31:440:31:49

Whilst Nijinsky's choreography for Afternoon Of A Faun

0:31:570:32:01

may have challenged Parisian audiences,

0:32:010:32:03

it did little to prepare them for his first collaboration with Stravinsky,

0:32:030:32:07

the now infamous Rite Of Spring.

0:32:070:32:09

It was this work, based around a pagan ritual,

0:32:090:32:13

with it's anti-ballet dance vocabulary and unimaginable music,

0:32:130:32:17

that caused the famous riot in Paris on the opening night

0:32:170:32:21

at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in 1913.

0:32:210:32:24

As the ballet took shape, Diaghilev, nervous of what his two star talents

0:32:240:32:29

might come up with, was anxious to hear Stravinsky's music.

0:32:290:32:33

'I started to play him these chords, 59 times the same chord.

0:32:350:32:41

'Diaghilev was a little bit surprised.'

0:32:410:32:46

He didn't want to offend me.

0:32:460:32:49

He asked me only one thing which was very offending.

0:32:490:32:54

He asked me, "Will this last a very long time this way?"

0:32:540:32:58

And I said, "To the end, my dear."

0:32:580:33:02

And he was silent because he understood

0:33:040:33:09

that the answer was serious.

0:33:090:33:12

Clearly Diaghilev had second thoughts

0:33:180:33:20

about the Rite Of Spring, about its complexity.

0:33:200:33:23

Even he, I think, must have been shocked when he began hearing

0:33:230:33:27

some of Stravinsky's musical sketches.

0:33:270:33:30

One of the remarkable things about The Rite Of Spring

0:33:330:33:36

is that it's still shocking

0:33:360:33:37

now, nearly 100 years later.

0:33:370:33:39

Now, there are very few things that ever occur in art or any other field

0:33:390:33:43

which are still shocking 100 years later.

0:33:430:33:46

Lady Chatterley's Lover, to the modern reader... Big deal.

0:33:460:33:49

But the Rite Of Spring, when you hear it, is still very challenging.

0:33:490:33:53

The irregularity of the rhythms, especially of some dance,

0:33:530:33:58

not always, but of some dances, with four, five, three, two beats.

0:33:580:34:04

That's really very... At this time it was absolutely new.

0:34:040:34:09

Stravinsky's score was so complex

0:34:110:34:13

and the dancers were having such difficulties

0:34:130:34:16

interpreting Nijinsky's choreography that they clearly needed help.

0:34:160:34:20

Diaghilev hired Marie Rambert, who not only performed in the ballet,

0:34:220:34:26

but because of her highly developed musicality

0:34:260:34:29

helped the dancers with the unusual music and movement.

0:34:290:34:32

Up to then,

0:34:320:34:34

the ballet used to dance mostly, in general, say in Moscow

0:34:340:34:38

they danced to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov.

0:34:380:34:43

Ech-ta-ta, ech-ta-ta, ech-ta-ta. Ech-ta...

0:34:430:34:45

It wasn't even called Ech-ta-ta. That is quite obvious rhythms.

0:34:450:34:50

And here came the score of Sacre

0:34:500:34:52

where you had to count two against three or three against four.

0:34:520:34:57

And then suddenly a crochet equalled a quaver.

0:34:570:35:00

They took her as an assistant for Nijinsky

0:35:080:35:10

to help him analyse the score of Stravinsky

0:35:100:35:13

and to organise rehearsals.

0:35:130:35:15

But she became something other.

0:35:150:35:18

She really became his comrade in arms.

0:35:180:35:21

She understood the resistance of the dancers.

0:35:210:35:24

She tried to tease them out of their resistance because they loved her.

0:35:240:35:30

It was at this time that Madame Rambert saved our lives,

0:35:300:35:34

at least she saved the lives of many people.

0:35:340:35:37

We used to run around with little pieces of paper

0:35:370:35:40

with all the accents written down and stamping round and stamp again.

0:35:400:35:44

And she was always there to interpret.

0:35:440:35:48

Nijinsky said, "This can't be quicker, this can't be slower.

0:35:480:35:52

"I know what the dancers can do,"

0:35:520:35:54

There was an epic battle between them.

0:35:540:35:56

Stravinsky sat at the piano and tried to make an orchestra,

0:35:560:36:00

he stamped with his feet and banged with his hands on the piano here

0:36:000:36:05

and there and shouted and sang and so on. I can't remember who won!

0:36:050:36:09

Le Sacre Du Printemps is really going into anthropology,

0:36:230:36:26

it's as if Nijinsky and Stravinsky are saying,

0:36:260:36:28

"You thought the Polovetsian dances was primitive,

0:36:280:36:31

"we'll show you real primitives

0:36:310:36:33

"and we'll go back before there was society."

0:36:330:36:36

He was not using relying upon what the dancers knew.

0:36:560:36:59

In other words, what they did in the studio

0:36:590:37:02

or what they'd done in Fokine ballets or Petipa ballets.

0:37:020:37:06

So he had to fight the habits of the body.

0:37:060:37:10

His dancers' feet weren't pointed or turned out,

0:37:180:37:21

they were pigeon-toed, flexed feet.

0:37:210:37:23

There was no attempt to make graceful and beautiful lines.

0:37:230:37:27

Everything was stark and fraught and primitive.

0:37:270:37:30

As the ballet progressed,

0:37:550:37:57

the first night audience started to voice their displeasure.

0:37:570:38:01

Although there are conflicting accounts of the scale of the riot,

0:38:010:38:04

the aggressive atmosphere created by constant heckling

0:38:040:38:08

made it extremely challenging for the dancers on stage.

0:38:080:38:11

Diaghilev in advance said "Whatever happens

0:38:150:38:18

"the conductor must go on playing and we go on dancing."

0:38:180:38:21

It was terribly difficult to hear the orchestra

0:38:210:38:25

because of all that noise in the audience.

0:38:250:38:27

Nijinsky stood in the wings counting out - one, two, three,

0:38:270:38:31

one, two, one, two, three, one, two, one, two, three.

0:38:310:38:35

She had to stand for perhaps 17 and a half bars

0:38:430:38:46

or 13 and a quarter bars on the spot

0:38:460:38:49

with her feet turned in, hands under her chin and trembling like that.

0:38:490:38:54

So somebody in the audience, from the gallery, shouted, "Un Doctor!"

0:38:540:39:01

And somebody else shouted, "Un Dentiste!"

0:39:010:39:04

Somebody else shouted, "Deux Dentiste!"

0:39:040:39:06

Of course lots of people laughed, others shrieked.

0:39:060:39:10

The pandemonium was absolutely terrible.

0:39:100:39:13

People like to think that the premiere was a spontaneous riot -

0:39:250:39:29

it wasn't at all!

0:39:290:39:30

Diaghilev spent five weeks hard

0:39:300:39:32

preparing the Parisians to hate this work.

0:39:320:39:35

And though there are various stories of how he reacted,

0:39:350:39:38

some of them say he wept and recited Pushkin in tragedy

0:39:380:39:42

when Le Sacre Du Printemps seemed to be a fiasco.

0:39:420:39:45

Stravinsky said not at all,

0:39:450:39:47

"He took us out for a good dinner, Nijinsky and me,

0:39:470:39:50

"and said, 'Just what I wanted.'"

0:39:500:39:52

The drama of The Rite of Spring

0:39:560:39:57

was quickly followed by upheaval in Diaghilev's personal life.

0:39:570:40:02

In 1913 his lover Nijinsky married Hungarian socialite,

0:40:020:40:06

Romola de Pulszky after a whirlwind shipboard romance

0:40:060:40:10

on route to perform in South America.

0:40:100:40:13

She was known as a company groupie

0:40:130:40:14

and booked a cabin on the ship that was carrying them.

0:40:140:40:17

Diaghilev, superstitious about travelling on water,

0:40:170:40:22

had decided fatefully not to make the journey.

0:40:220:40:26

Although his relationship with Nijinsky had been cooling,

0:40:260:40:30

Diaghilev flew into a rage on hearing the news

0:40:300:40:33

and a short time later impulsively fired Nijinsky

0:40:330:40:36

from the Ballet Russes.

0:40:360:40:38

Nijinsky wrote to Stravinsky and said, "I can't believe that Serge

0:40:380:40:43

"wants to get rid of me.

0:40:430:40:46

"If that is true then I have lost everything."

0:40:460:40:49

I believe that he didn't know and he did lost everything.

0:40:490:40:53

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes struggled to keep going.

0:40:590:41:05

Although they continued to tour Europe and danced

0:41:050:41:08

all over North and South America, these were difficult years.

0:41:080:41:12

The artistic highlight was the ballet Parade which premiered in Paris in 1917.

0:41:130:41:19

It was choreographed by Leonid Massine, a young character dancer

0:41:190:41:25

brought in by Diaghilev as a replacement for Nijinsky.

0:41:250:41:29

Now also Diaghilev's lover, he was no match for Nijinsky as a dancer

0:41:290:41:34

but was emerging as a genuine choreographic talent.

0:41:340:41:37

The libretto was by the French avant-garde artist Jean Cocteau and the score by Erik Satie.

0:41:420:41:49

Parade was also Pablo Picasso's first design for Diaghilev.

0:41:490:41:53

He knows about Diaghilev through Cocteau.

0:41:530:41:57

They met in Rome in 1917 to work on Parade.

0:41:570:42:02

But at that time he had never made something like that, that's for sure.

0:42:020:42:06

He's happy to attach himself to the Diaghilev ballet and make four works

0:42:060:42:11

over four years, and this becomes a great vehicle for him.

0:42:110:42:14

It's not just that he uses it, he can make radical cubist designs

0:42:140:42:19

for Parade that changed everybody's idea of what is possible in costuming in dance theatre.

0:42:190:42:25

Nobody else has done anything quite so wacky since.

0:42:250:42:29

But he, like Stravinsky, is taking ideas both of modernist art

0:42:290:42:34

and classical art from what he can see in the ballet.

0:42:340:42:37

It was publicised as the world's first cubist ballet.

0:42:370:42:40

It was this total cubist collage of images, which the dancers could barely walk in.

0:42:400:42:45

Picasso was already an established artist and he used his authority

0:42:480:42:52

to steer the production into uncharted territory.

0:42:520:42:56

What he said went. He said, "I want to have these impossible to dance in,

0:42:580:43:02

"enormous skyscraper costumes of the American manager and the European manager.

0:43:020:43:07

"And then we'll have some very modernistic costumes, which are the two acrobats painted

0:43:070:43:14

"with these blue arabesques."

0:43:140:43:16

And then there was the Chinese conjuror

0:43:160:43:19

which of course was the part that Massine took.

0:43:190:43:21

It must have been very much a mish-mash.

0:43:210:43:24

It wasn't only the design of Parade that pushed the boundaries of the ballet, the music was also radical.

0:43:300:43:37

The composer Erik Satie was encouraged by Cocteau

0:43:370:43:40

to use naturalistic sounds that echoed the cubist theme.

0:43:400:43:44

He brought in sounds that were not musical and put them in, like typewriters.

0:43:490:43:55

This idea of sampling sounds

0:43:550:43:57

from other parts that aren't musical and putting them into the music

0:43:570:44:00

and giving them rhythm, that idea - which turned into sampling - is something that we

0:44:000:44:05

in the modern world live with, it's an absolutely normal part of all popular and classical music.

0:44:050:44:11

The overambitious Parade was a flop with audiences but Diaghilev was soon

0:44:120:44:18

busily pursuing his ambition to persuade another big name artist to design a ballet,

0:44:180:44:23

Henri Matisse.

0:44:230:44:25

If you got the call to design a ballet for Diaghilev, you were thrilled to do it.

0:44:280:44:34

It wasn't that you would be paid a great deal of money but there was a real desire

0:44:340:44:40

to be associated with the Diaghilev ballets.

0:44:400:44:44

However, Matisse proved to be a tougher proposition than most.

0:44:440:44:47

In typically bullish fashion, Diaghilev lured Matisse to London to work on the designs for the next

0:44:470:44:53

Massine/Stravinsky collaboration, Le Chant du Rossignol - The Song Of The Nightingale.

0:44:530:44:59

He was literally kidnapped. They were putting you up at the Savoy and you stay until the decor's done.

0:44:590:45:04

Later, when he looked back on it,

0:45:040:45:06

Matisse could remember vividly those feelings of rancour and fury and rage

0:45:060:45:11

and the wish to beat his head against the wall and the floor.

0:45:110:45:14

But he also recognised that Diaghilev had made him do something that he never would've dreamed of.

0:45:140:45:20

1921 proved to be a difficult year for Diaghilev.

0:45:220:45:26

With echoes of Nijinsky's sacking,

0:45:260:45:28

he fired Massine after the young dancer and choreographer had fallen

0:45:280:45:32

in love with one of the company's dancers.

0:45:320:45:34

Into the void stepped 17-year-old Boris Kochno, who, not as a dancer or a choreographer,

0:45:340:45:41

but as his personal secretary, was to become central to Diaghilev's life.

0:45:410:45:46

In the same year the company suffered one of its biggest artistic

0:45:460:45:50

and financial failures with a lavish production of The Sleeping Princess.

0:45:500:45:56

The fall out left Diaghilev diving into cabs to dodge creditors.

0:45:560:46:02

But with a new year came a new opportunity.

0:46:020:46:06

Monte Carlo had always been a favourite touring date for the company

0:46:060:46:10

and in 1922 Diaghilev sensed an opportunity to establish himself

0:46:100:46:14

there following the death of Albert Prince of Monaco.

0:46:140:46:18

One of his long time backers, the Princess de Polignac, the Singer sewing machine heiress,

0:46:180:46:24

was related to the new Prince Louis II and Diaghilev secured

0:46:240:46:28

financial backing to locate his company in Monte Carlo for six months of the year.

0:46:280:46:33

He now focussed his efforts on getting Stravinsky to finish his score for the ballet Les Noces

0:46:330:46:39

on which the composer had been working on and off for almost eight years.

0:46:390:46:43

Stravinsky wrote it on a long period of time.

0:46:510:46:54

Much longer than anything else he wrote

0:46:540:46:58

and this instrumental combination he used

0:46:580:47:03

was so, um, exceptional,

0:47:030:47:06

that I can understand that he hesitated quite a lot before choosing the final combination.

0:47:060:47:13

Stravinsky had conceived it really right after the Rite Of Spring

0:47:280:47:34

and it was initially to have a huge orchestra like The Rite Of Spring.

0:47:340:47:39

It was about another Russian ritual, a peasant wedding.

0:47:390:47:44

It went through numerous changes and every time it

0:47:440:47:47

went through another change the orchestration would change.

0:47:470:47:50

It ends up having four pianos and percussion and voice.

0:47:500:47:56

What he's doing with the music is he's taking sounds, percussion sounds,

0:48:020:48:06

and pianos, jingly-jangly sounds,

0:48:060:48:09

and bringing in voices like they're instruments.

0:48:090:48:12

So they're declaiming and sometimes speaking, sometimes doing rhythm.

0:48:120:48:16

Almost like rap.

0:48:160:48:17

Stravinsky's music may have been radical, but Diaghilev wanted a design to reflect the simple theme

0:48:170:48:24

and appointed the Russian artist Natalia Gontcherova.

0:48:240:48:27

The choreography was by Nijinsky's sister, Bronislava Nijinska,

0:48:270:48:31

a talented choreographer in her own right.

0:48:310:48:34

Diaghilev wanted it to be very Russian, very Russian peasant wedding, and so Gontcherova.

0:48:340:48:41

And Gontcherova did these first designs.

0:48:410:48:45

Incredibly colourful.

0:48:450:48:48

Nijinsky looked at them and sort of said, "Nyet, nyet, nyet"

0:48:480:48:52

So Gontcherova went back again and did another series of designs,

0:48:520:48:58

which were more muted and not nearly so colourful.

0:48:580:49:03

And so the dancers ended up wearing long brown dresses and they had these

0:49:030:49:08

extraordinary wigs with very long plaits.

0:49:080:49:11

So here you have one of those collaborations

0:49:190:49:22

that wasn't perhaps that successful a collaboration,

0:49:220:49:27

but turned out to produce a wonderful work.

0:49:270:49:29

One of the great works of the Diaghilev period.

0:49:290:49:32

Nijinska decided she wanted to stage this formal vision of a peasant community,

0:49:320:49:38

but she also wanted to elongate them like icons.

0:49:380:49:41

So to give them that elongation, she put all the women on to point.

0:49:410:49:44

It's a very stylised form a point work.

0:49:440:49:46

Their legs are parallel, not turned out as in conventional ballet.

0:49:460:49:51

And the movements of the feet have a kind of hobbled quality, without any

0:49:510:49:55

of the expansiveness that we associate with ballet.

0:49:550:49:59

A very cramped type of movement, which says so much about the peasant community.

0:49:590:50:04

As we've seen, Diaghilev's genius was not only in searching out

0:50:460:50:50

the hottest talent to work for his company,

0:50:500:50:52

but also in keeping the money flowing.

0:50:520:50:55

There were groups of supporters in Paris like Misia Sert,

0:50:550:51:00

the Princesse de Polignac, who were very, very close to Diaghilev.

0:51:000:51:04

Through Misia Sert he meets Gabrielle Chanel,

0:51:040:51:07

who puts up the money for the revival of the Rite of Spring.

0:51:070:51:12

Gabrielle Chanel, better known as Coco Chanel, overheard one

0:51:120:51:15

of those fraught financial conversations that Diaghilev must have had a thousand times.

0:51:150:51:20

Diaghilev was close to tears.

0:51:200:51:23

Chanel didn't open her mouth. She left Misia at her house,

0:51:230:51:28

went to to her house and there made a cheque,

0:51:280:51:32

took an envelope with a cheque inside,

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went to the hotel of Diaghilev and said to the porter,

0:51:360:51:40

"Would you please give that to Mr Diaghilev when you see him?"

0:51:400:51:43

And the porter says, "Could I have your name?"

0:51:430:51:46

"No, no, it's no use. I don't have to give my name.

0:51:460:51:50

"Just give the envelope."

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It was the money to do the whole chorus, the whole ballet.

0:51:520:51:56

When she met him through Misia Sert and her husband,

0:51:560:52:01

they were on the border of bankruptcy,

0:52:010:52:03

but that was nothing new for them. It happened very often.

0:52:030:52:07

Coco Chanel links to Diaghilev's ballets Russes were not only as a benefactor.

0:52:070:52:13

In 1924 she designed the chic costumes for the ballet

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Le Train Bleu, named after the luxurious train

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that took people from Paris to Deauville on the Normandy coast.

0:52:200:52:23

Diaghilev was anxious for a vehicle to show off his new star,

0:52:230:52:28

Anton Dolin, a prodigiously talented young English dancer with whom he's fallen in love.

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Jean Cocteau produced a libretto that highlighted Dolin's physical prowess.

0:52:340:52:39

In 1924, Chanel designed costumes for a ballet called the famous Train Bleu.

0:52:400:52:46

If you look at photos from people on the beach, they have this kind of beachwear.

0:52:470:52:52

I think she was perfectly right for her times for it is better

0:52:520:52:55

than to be ahead of the time because it then you are nowhere.

0:52:550:52:59

You have to be of the moment and Chanel was a woman of the moment.

0:52:590:53:02

You could pull some of those pieces today out of the archive and wear them with a great pair

0:53:020:53:08

of Givenchy boots or something and they would look really relevant and contemporary.

0:53:080:53:13

The idea of using the theatre or the red carpet of the world

0:53:130:53:17

of film to promote your work, and Chanel maybe was ahead of her time,

0:53:170:53:20

or maybe we don't realise how clever she was because she was probably one of the first

0:53:200:53:25

to be doing that.

0:53:250:53:26

In the same year the young Russian dancer and budding choreographer

0:53:260:53:30

George Balanchine arrived in Paris with three other members

0:53:300:53:34

of a small dance troupe after abandoning Soviet Russia.

0:53:340:53:38

Diaghilev was in need always of fresh dancers and because of the revolution

0:53:390:53:45

they were not a lot of dancers coming out of Russia at that point.

0:53:450:53:50

So he heard four dancers, you know, one of them choreographs, that sounded good to him.

0:53:500:53:54

Diaghilev realises, sees the talent, feels the talent

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and basically allows Balanchine an apprenticeship that was extraordinary.

0:53:590:54:05

Balanchine said, "I had two educations.

0:54:050:54:07

"One was really my dance education that I got in Russia

0:54:070:54:11

"and then there was my artistic education, almost all of which I got from Diaghilev."

0:54:110:54:15

He took me to museums and sometimes would leave me hungry, while he and his friends went out to lunch

0:54:150:54:20

and would leave me in front of this painting by Veronese or whatever

0:54:200:54:24

and say, "What did you think?", when they came back after a good lunch.

0:54:240:54:28

Balanchine had simply been left in the museum to look at this painting.

0:54:280:54:32

But that way, of course, bit by bit, you learn.

0:54:320:54:34

Diaghilev trusts him with bigger and bigger projects

0:54:370:54:41

and then Diaghilev discovers Lifar, whom he's madly in love with

0:54:410:54:45

and who is his new star, cos he created stars, and he started having Balanchine create ballets for Lifar.

0:54:450:54:53

The first of Balanchine's ballets for Lifar was Apollo in which he danced with Alexandra Danilova.

0:54:530:55:00

Apollo redefined ballet's choreographic language for the 20th century.

0:55:000:55:05

The pas de deux, for instance in Apollo, is terribly inventive.

0:55:050:55:09

When you look at that ballerina swimming on the back of her prince, of her god, how wonderful!

0:55:090:55:17

I mean how inventive.

0:55:170:55:19

It was the ballet that taught him to take away rather than to add,

0:55:360:55:40

to have one thing, one tone, one vocabulary

0:55:400:55:44

that suited the music because with Balanchine music always came first

0:55:440:55:50

and he knew it was a key work and everybody knew Apollo was great.

0:55:500:55:56

Apollo premiered in Paris in 1928 with another striking score by Stravinsky.

0:55:560:56:04

Although Balanchine got the most extraordinary opportunities from Diaghlev,

0:56:190:56:26

absolutely career-forming opportunities,

0:56:260:56:30

and created some very, very important ballets, notably Apollo for Diaghilev,

0:56:300:56:37

there was a sense in which Balanchine was always his own man.

0:56:370:56:42

Balanchine was to be the last of Diaghilev's great discoveries.

0:56:460:56:50

Diaghilev's punishing lifestyle and his diabetes eventually caught up with him

0:56:540:56:59

and his early death in Venice aged 57 on the 19th August 1929 brought Ballets Russes to a grinding halt.

0:56:590:57:07

Within weeks the company started to disband and without Diaghilev drive it simply ran out of steam.

0:57:080:57:15

The strength of Diaghilev's legacy is hard to overstate

0:57:180:57:23

and the lineage of many of today's dance companies can be directly linked to those 20 glorious years.

0:57:230:57:29

For a lot of people working in the theatre and the wider arts,

0:57:290:57:32

Diaghilev is kind of the gold standard, you know?

0:57:320:57:35

He's the legend that we all speak about with hushed tones.

0:57:350:57:40

The emphasis on creativity, that dance is not something that is just mired in a convention

0:57:400:57:46

or in tradition, but that the tradition can indeed keep reinventing itself.

0:57:460:57:51

He stands there as a vision of what a man could accomplish in art who was not himself an artist.

0:57:530:58:00

From an art form ridiculed at the start of the 20th century,

0:58:000:58:04

Serge Diaghilev's ballets Russes transformed ballet.

0:58:040:58:08

Collaborations between artists working in different disciplines

0:58:080:58:12

is the norm now in contemporary dance.

0:58:120:58:14

Artists working alongside choreographers, composers collaborating with designers,

0:58:140:58:19

dancers performing with musicians - all this creative cross-fertilisation

0:58:190:58:23

inspired by Diaghilev's revolution, has underpinned ballet to create what is now a thriving art form.

0:58:230:58:31

100 years later, we see how dance, music and art continues

0:58:310:58:35

to be indebted to the taste and tenacity of this great impresario.

0:58:350:58:40

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:500:58:52

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0:58:520:58:54

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