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Diaghilev's ballet revolution still stepping out 100 years on

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The curtain rises on "Pavillon d'Armide," picturing an 18th-century French rococo setting of pale greens, pinks, and turquoise, designed by Alexander Benois, that includes a huge staircase at the rear and a clock whose figures are represented by live dancers. Later, the characters on a Gobelins-made tapestry will step down to perform. After a pas de trois, Nijinsky leaps off stage to such a height that he leaves the viewers gasping.

In contrast to the decorum of "Pavillon," next up on the program is "Polvetsian Dances," from Borodin's opera "Prince Igor." The male dancers, costumed as warriors from the Russian steppes, leap onto stage among scantily clad women undulating in a circle, the scene building to a frenzy, further startling the audience. The evening ends with "Le Festin," a group of excerpts from older Russian ballets that showcases the virtuosity of the performers.

At the time, patrons were ecstatic as were the newspaper reviews that followed. For Diaghilev, the wild success meant no turning back.

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