Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes

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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.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Colonel Wassily de Basil Died July 27, 1951

Colonel Wassily de Basil was born Vassily Grigorievich Voskresensky in Kaunas, Lithuania. He is said to have been a colonel in the Cossack army although his claim to the title "Colonel" is disputed. De Basil was demobilised from the army in 1919 and worked as an entrepreneur in Paris.
Following the death of
Sergei Diaghilev in 1929, the members of his Ballets Russes went in many directions. De Basil and René Blum, ballet director at the Monte Carlo Opera, founded the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo in 1931. The ballet gave its first performance in Monte Carlo in 1932. Blum and de Basil did not agree artistically, leading to a split, after which Col. Basil renamed his company initially Ballets Russes de Colonel W. de Basil.

When Massine discovered his ballets belonged to Colonel de Basil, he brought a law suit in London that captured the imagination of the press. They reported the events of the trial daily. Finally, the courts decided Colonel de Basil did own the ballets. Both companies could use the name Ballet Russe, but de Basil had to drop "de Monte Carlo." Sol Hurok also severed his connection with Colonel de Basil's company and became manager for Leonide Massine and Rene Blum. Sol Hurok was sure the American public could not support two companies, so he tried to get the companies back together.

Meanwhile, Col. W. de Basil's company called themselves Covent Garden Ballet Russe, and finally Original Ballet Russe. In 1938, the two companies were performing in London at the same time. Col. de Basil was at Covent Garden and Blum was two blocks away at the Drury Lane. Ballet lovers could run back and forth, from one theater to the other, and see the ballets of their choice.

Through an all-night session, the management of the two companies got together and ironed out their differences. But at the last moment Colonel W. de Basil said no to the offer. Once Hurok was managing both companies at the same time, and he booked the Ballet Russe to play four weeks at the Hollywood Theatre (now called the Mark Hellinger), immediately followed by the Original Ballet Russe. It was the longest ballet season to hit New York -- a solid fifteen weeks. For years, dancers would perform in one company one season and in another company the next.

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