Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes
1909-1929

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This Blog is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history and memories of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, its legendary ballet dancers, choreographers, scenery artists, musicians and composers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Alexandre Volinine's Birthday Today-September 16, 1882

Alexandre Volinine was born in Moscow on September 16, 1882. He was a Russian-French dancer and teacher. Volinine studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School, with Tikhomirov and Gorsky and he graduated in 1901. After graduating, he was invited to join the Bolshoi Ballet and was quickly promoted to principal danseur in 1903. Volinine created roles in Gorsky's Robert and Bertram (1906) and Nur and Anitra (1907), and danced all the leading male roles in the classical repertoire.

He left the Bolshoi in 1910, first dancing with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in the 1910 Paris season. It was here that he danced a Principal role in Fokine's Les Orientales, and then toured with Lydia Lopokova (1910-11) in America. He appeared with Gertrude Hoffmann's so-called Ballets Russes at the Winter Garden Theater in New York in 1911 and with Mikhail Mordkin's All-Star Imperial Russian Ballet (1911-12). Later Volinine partnered Adeline Genée on tour to America, Australia, and New Zealand (1912-13); also partnered Lydia Kyasht at the Empire Theatre in London in 1913.


Volinine most famous partner was Anna Pavlova. He danced with Anna Pavlova's company on its various world tours from 1914 to 1925, partnering Pavlova and creating the role of the Young Poet in her Autumn Leaves (1919).
In 1926, having retired from the stage, he opened a famous school in Paris, where his students included Babilée, Eglevsky, Jeanmaire, and Lichine. In 1946 he staged Giselle for the Royal Danish Ballet.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Olga Alexandrovna Spessivtzeva Born 9/16,1895

Olga was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. She was the daughter of an opera singer. After her father's death, she was sent to an orphanage in St. Petersburg with theatrical connections. She entered St. Petersburg's Imperial Ballet Academy in 1906, where she was a student of Klavdia Kulichevskaya and later of Agrippina Vaganova. After graduating in 1913, Olga joined the Mariinsky Theater, where she was promoted to Soloist in 1916. An exquisite romantic dancer with perfect technique, ideally suited for roles such as Giselle and Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, she quickly became one of the most admired dancers in the company.

In 1916, Diaghilev invited her to tour with his Ballets Russes in the United States. Olga danced with Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose, Les Sylphides and the Bluebird pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty. In 1918 she returned to the Mariinsky, and was promoted to Ballerina.

In 1921, Olga performed with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes as Aurora, in his revived The Sleeping Princess in London. She continued to perform with the Ballets Russes abroad, at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires in 1923. With the aid of her ex-husband Boris Kaplun, she left Russia for the last time in 1924, accepting an invitation to dance as an étoile (prima ballerina) at the Paris Opera Ballet, where she remained until 1932.

In 1932, Olga made another memorable guest appearance in London, dancing Giselle with Anton Dolin. From 1932 to 1937, she toured with a number of companies throughout the world, performing roles from both the classical repertoire and contemporary ballets by choreographers such as Michel Fokine and Bronislava Nijinska. In 1939, Olga moved to the United States where she taught and served as an advisor to the Ballet Theatre Foundation.

Olga suffered a nervous breakdown in 1943, and she was hospitalized. She remained institutionalized until 1963 when, with the help of her friends Anton Dolin and Felia Doubrovska, she was discharged and settled in Valley Cottage on the Tolstoy Farm. The Tolstoy Farm is a Russian community run by the Tolstoy Foundation in New York's Rockland County. It was founded by Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, daughter of the novelist, as a rest home for Russians. Recovered, she lived there in peaceful retirement for nearly three decades, dying at the age of 96.

Andre Derain Artist of the Ballets Russes


André Derain was a French painter and co-founder of Fauvism with Henri Matisse. André Derain was born in 1880 in Chatou, Yvelines, Île-de-France, just outside Paris. In 1898, while studying to be an engineer at the Académie Camillo, he attended painting classes under Eugène Carrière, and there met Henri Matisse. Matisse persuaded Derain's parents to allow him to abandon his engineering career and devote himself solely to painting; subsequently Derain attended the Académie Julian.


Derain and Matisse worked together through the summer of 1905 in the Mediterranean village of Collioure and later that year displayed their highly innovative paintings at the Salon d'Automne. In March 1906, the noted art dealer Ambroise Vollard sent Derain to London to compose a series of paintings with the city as subject. Derain put forth a portrait of London that was radically different from anything done by previous painters of the city such as Whistler or Monet. These London paintings remain among his most popular work.

In 1907 art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler purchased Derain's entire studio, granting Derain financial stability. He experimented with stone sculpture and moved to Montmartre to be near his friend Pablo Picasso. In 1914 he was mobilized for military service in World War I and until his release in 1919 he would have little time for painting.

After the war, Derain in 1919 he designed the ballet La Boutique Fantasque for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. A major success, it would lead to his creating many ballet designs. The 1920s marked the height of his success, as he was awarded the Carnegie Prize in 1928 and began to exhibit extensively abroad — in London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, New York City and Cincinnati, Ohio.

During the German occupation of France in World War II, Derain lived primarily in Paris and was much courted by the Germans because he represented the prestige of French culture. A year before his death, he contracted an eye infection from which he never fully recovered. He died in Garches, Hauts-de-Seine, Île-de-France, France in 1954 when he was struck by a moving vehicle.

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Today, paintings by Derain sell for as much as $6 million US dollars. The London paintings were the subject of a major exhibition at the Courtauld Institute in 2005-06.