Les Ballets russes


There was a full house last Tuesday night for Rachel Tracey's talk on Les Ballets Russes. It was a pleasure to see that I wasn't the only one who had been looking forward to it, and Rachel certainly didn't disappoint. In a very well scripted talk, delivered in a relaxed and engaging style, she took us from the foundation of Les Ballets Russes by Serge Diaghilev through his association with designers, such as Leon Bakst and Coco Chanel, choreographers including Fokine, and dancers like Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova and Tamara Karsavina, all of whom became legends in ballet.
George Balanchine, whose name was later synonymous with the New York City Ballet, began his career with Les Ballets Russes. There were several pictures as illustrations, and we were referred to a unique, and only recently discovered, film of Les Ballets Russes in rehearsal.
The financial perils of running a ballet company were not ignored. Diaghilev had been able to call on friends and family connections for patronage; however that source was not inexhaustible, and financial ruin was never far away. Diaghilev himself lived sparingly in a hotel room; even so, when he died, his friends had to club together to pay his bill.
After Diaghilev's death, Les Ballets Russes had several subsequent incarnations, even at one time as two different companies, run as rivals by Colonel de Basil (The Original Ballets Russes) and René Blum (Les Ballets Russes de Montecarlo). There were, of course, financial constraints, as well as the immense problems of the Second World War. Colonel de Basil's company folded in 1952, and Les Ballets Russes de Montecarlo went bankrupt in 1968.
Although Les Ballets Russes no longer exist, their legacy lives on. Their influence on design, choreography and style was immense, and has had lasting effects on ballet today.
After a short demonstration of barre exercise, Rachel answered questions, and there were many of those, indicating just how much interest there had been in the subject. There were many favourable comments as members left, the best one being “Another triumph!”

Reviewer: Hilary HEADLEY 

Rachel and Hilary pictured after the talk