A Spoiled Avant-garde in Paris: Diaghilev and Ballets Russes


Think of a person whose life is the subject of movies and books, and has become a name for perfumes. In his own words, he is a charlatan, an incomparable sorcerer, a cheeky, reasonable man with a background of conscience, a completely incompetent and patron of the arts. A pioneer who radically changed the world of classical ballet and shook the art world with everything he did… Who is not in this story? Igor Stravinsky , Sergei Prokofiev , Claude Debussy , Erik Satie , Pablo Picasso , Henri Matisse , Coco Chanel , Charlie Chaplin… But there is 'one genius' that brings them all together...

Diaghilev was born into an aristocratic family . Speaking poetry , literature , music is one of the daily activities of the family . Modest Mussorgsky, one of the great composers of the period, is among the visitors of the family. As such, Diaghilev also meets art at an early age. Although he is interested in almost every field of art, he never considers himself talented as a composer or performer. This temperamental young man, whose time to shine like a star is near, finds himself in St. He finds it while studying law in St. Petersburg. Art will have ingrained into him so much that I don't know whether you call it fate or luck, he meets Leon Baskt and Alexandre Benois, the favorite artists of those years. Feeling at home again with this meeting, Diaghilev's light, which has been waiting to shine for years, is finally starting to illuminate the art world. He started to write about artists and art movements and his name soon spread among the intellectuals. It also maintains close relations with the Basque Country and the Benois. Conservative academics and political figures of the period, as is the case in every period without exception, are playing tricks to block this avant-garde trio. But they are not successful in their attempts and our trio are giving voice to a new generation of artists whose intention is simply to create their art freely. From his pens, Mir Iskusstva (Art World), a magazine that will shake up the art world and recreate it, comes to life.

Art World members, depicting; Boris Kustodiev (1916-1920). From left to right: Igor Grabar, Nicholas Roerich, Eugene Lanceray, Kustodiev, Ivan Bilibin, Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, Alexandre Benois, Heorhiy Narbut, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, Nikolay Milioti, Konstantin Somov and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky

Diaghilev becomes a well-known face in the Russian art community. Our hero, who is very interested in Russian art, travels extensively around the country to collect exhibits of 18th and 19th century arts and to introduce them to the whole world. In 1905, a large St. Petersburg exhibition . He takes the exhibition to Paris, the art capital of Europe, in 1907, and Parisians meet Russian art for the first time. Paris, the city that came to the fore after Italy in the Renaissance and art movements after the Middle Ages, is a favorite of many countries, both because of the French Revolution and because it was an important capital. By the 1900s, in the industrializing and developing Europe, France was also developing naturally. The Paris World's Fair, which took place in 1900, is turning into a showroom where the inventions that have come one after another in recent years have attracted great attention, as an exhibition where participants from all over the world introduced the technological developments in their countries.

Stars of Ballets Russes

In these glorious times, Diaghilev, now owned by Europe, returns to the country for a while and is invited to the Maryinsky Theatre, the jewel of Russian imperial theaters, in charge of "special assignments". One of his very special duties is to organize the yearbook of the imperial theatres. You will agree that these are tasks that do not fit the dreamer Diaghilev we know so far. Well, of course, as we guessed, our spoiled child gets bored here as well, leaving in 1911 due to his impatience and arrogance in dealing with bureaucracy. However, in Marinsky, he meets a team that will radically change the ballet world and turn Paris into a fantastic universe in the coming years, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Michel Fokine… Thus, the new doors of the art world are opened wide.

This dream team that will guide the history of ballet and make a name for itself for many years will perform its first stage in Paris in 1909 . In the repertoire of the first year; Le Pavillon d'Armide (Tcherepnin), Prince Igor (Borodin), Cleopatra (Arensky) Scheherazade (Korsakov) there are ballets. The main hero of our story, Diaghilev, takes care of all the decoration himself, from the door of the opera / ballet house to the flowers inside. But when it comes to the stage details, it softly leaves its place to the artists of the team. In the choreography of almost all ballets staged from 1909 to 1915 Michel Fokine We see . Fokine desires to break with the stereotypical ballet traditions. He thinks that the techniques of traditional ballet masters cannot be the limit . According to him, these techniques are just one of the ways for the artist to express himself. At the same time, he thinks that many ballet dancers and ballerinas don't fit the theme and spirit of the play they play. For this reason, she emphasizes that ballet art should be liberated from outdated clothes and figures. As a choreographer, he takes ballerinas out of their ballet shoes and dances in works where they can use their hands and bodies more freely.

One day , this innovative young man goes to the directors of the Imperial Ballet Company with proposals that will be considered brand new reforms . One of these suggestions is for the artists to dance barefoot in the ballet "Eunice" staged in 1907. When this offer was rejected - because it's not what will happen after Tchaikovsky, can you say ballerina without pointe and tobacco, my dear! – Fokine puts the dancers on stage by painting their tights like toes and giving the impression that they are dancing barefoot. You see, this genius child is exactly for our Diaghilev. In other words, the pot found its rolled lid … The team creates a great harmony with each member of the team. One of the other members of the team, Fokine's favorite ballet artists Anna Pavlova and in the following years Charlie Chaplin It will even take your mind Vaslav Nijinsky It is not possible to pass without mentioning.

Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova of the late 19th and early 20th centuries Rus ballerina. Pavlova classical ballet She is cited as one of the best ballerinas in history. The lead ballerina of Ballets Russes, Pavlova is best known for her role as Death of the Swan. She is also the first ballerina to tour the world with her team. When she gets sick and has to have surgery, her doctor tells her that if she has surgery, she will never be able to dance again. Pavlova shows how passionate she is to her art by saying 'If I can't dance again, I'd rather die'. It becomes so famous during the Pavlova period that it gives its name to a dessert; Pavlova Dessert … Dessert in the 1920s Avustralya ve New Zelandduring or after his tours to Anna PavlovaIt is believed to have been created in his honor. The nationality of its creator has been a source of debate between the two countries for many years. Undoubtedly, whoever found this dessert must have been very impressed by Pavlova's beauty!

Let's talk about Charlie Chaplin's 'I've seen a few geniuses in the world, and Vaslav Nijinsky, whom Nijinsky calls one of them. The year is 1908 when he met Diaghilev. After that date, as the two became good friends, Nijinsky's career is generally led by Diaghilev. She is included in the Paris tour organized by Diaghilev with ballet and dance companies. He took the first step of his popularity in 1910 . When she returns to Europe after her South America tour, Diaghilev kicks our beautiful ballet dancer from the company. Thereupon, he attempts to form his own ballet group. However, he cannot get a positive result. He is taken in with the First World War in 1914, and he is released in 1916 by his old friend Diaghilev (we talked so much, he turned out to be loyal). They go to New York for Ballets Russes' American tour, just as they are released the same year. Even though his personal performances are praised, Nijinsky incurs heavy financial losses as he manages the team haphazardly. As the years pass, Nijinsky begins to lose his sanity. Although he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, when he passed away in London in 1950, doctors called the reason for his going "kidney failure". That's how another star slips away from the world... The sensational work of the 20th century, which he left behind and choreographed. Stravinskyof Rite of Spring Nijinsky becomes immortal with his ballet (La sacre du printemps)…

Waslav Nijinsky -1912

Scandal in Paris: Rite of Spring

Now imagine yourself in 1913, as a European art lover. On a spring evening, you are sipping your wine in your most elegant outfit at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, unaware of what you will hear and see. Laughter gives way to whispers. The velvety slavic melody, played by bassoons in the silence, spreads throughout the hall. Unusual but beautiful … In just a few seconds, everything changes. Dissonant chords are complicated rhythm patterns that you have trouble following. Curtains open. A huge mountain in the background. The dancers in a group of ethnic costumes are performing movements that you cannot understand. Rhythms continue to get complicated at full speed. But what is that!? A dancer similar to an old magician is dancing on stage with a wooden stick in his hand . Then all the dancers come together and celebrate the arrival of spring with some rituals. After all you have seen and heard, I ask you; what would you think? Maybe you watched The Swan Ballet a few days ago and admired the wonderful aesthetics of the Russian Ballet. So what happened now? This choreography, this music.. Were they the heralds of a new aesthetic, a new era? While you are busy with these questions in your mind , booing rises in the hall . This is how the "Spring Rite" stepped onto the world stage in such an eventful way.

Dancers in original costumes by Nicholas Roerich. Left to right, Julitska, Marie Rambert, Jejerska, Boni, Boniecka, Faithful.

Stravinsky and the Rite of Spring (La sacre du printemps)

Everything starts with Stravinsky having an interesting dream one day. In his dream, he is traveling north in a freight car with a bull. It should not be surprising that the bull is a symbol of spring in some cultures, as Stravinsky names the piece 'The Rite of Spring'. Our composer, who was greatly influenced by his dream, begins to write the Rite of Spring at the same time as the Firebird Ballet (L'Oiseau de Feu), which he was completing at the time. . After the dream, Stravinsky dreams several more interesting scenes. In his autobiography dated 1936, he describes these dreams as follows; “One day (in 1910), as I was finishing the last pages of L'Oiseau de Feu in Saint Petersburg, I had a flying vision … I dreamed of a solemn pagan ritual: the wise elders were sitting in a circle watching a young girl dance to her death. . They sacrificed him to appease the spring god. This was the theme of the Rite of Spring.” Stravinsky shares this dream with the painter Nicholas Roerich, another important hero of the ballet that will be staged. The two friends keep this a secret between them for years. Another reason why Stravinsky was so closely related to pagan traditions is that he was a Russian poet. Sergey Gorodetsky'of "halfwayHe is reading poems from his anthology ”. These poems feature wise elders, pagan culture, and proverbs. When our composer deals with them, this beautiful work emerges.

Fantastic Four; Stravinsky , Nijinsky , Roerich , Diaghilev

Diaghilev watches the rehearsals of the piece in silence and admiration . Our innovative young man, Nijinsky, trains the dancers with an unprecedented choreography. At first, the dancers have a hard time in these new unusual movements, due to the difficult rhythm of the music. Not only the dancers but also the orchestra find it difficult to play Stravinsky's complex music. In fact , according to the rumor , Stravinsky comes one day with a score in which he wrote the whole piece in 4/4 so that the orchestra can understand the music more easily . After rehearsals, he tells the musicians to burn the notes.

Stravinsky'nin el yazısı notası

Let's come to the subject of our work, which is no longer a secret between Stravinsky and Roerich and will move the ballet world; Ballet consists of two parts; Adoration of the Earth (L'Adoration de la Terre) and Sacrifice (Le Sacrifice). Both parts are divided into various dances and rituals.

I. Worship the Earth

 The curtains are drawn, and the spring celebrations begin in the hills. An old woman walks in and begins to predict the future. Young girls come from the river in single file. They begin the "Dance of Abduction". Young girls dance the "Spring Dance", the Khorovod (an ancient east Slavic Dance). The people are divided into two opposite groups and begin the "Ritual of Rival Tribes". A holy procession is initiated by the wise elders, led by the Sage (old woman), who stops the games and blesses the world. People begin a passionate dance, bless and become one with the land.

Wise Woman and the tribe behind her

II. Victim

Young girls play mystery games in circles. One of the young girls chosen by fate is surrounded by a circle and honored with a dance as "The Chosen One". With a short dance, young girls call out to their ancestors. The chosen girl is entrusted to the wise old men. The girl dances to the death in the presence of the old men in the great Sacrifice Dance.

Seçilmiş Kurban

Scandal Premiere

The work was premiered at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris in 1913. Pierre Monteux takes place under management. Evening, Nijinsky ve Karsavinaplayed the main roles Les Sylphides It begins with (Glazunov adapted Chopin's piano music into ballet). After this romantic music and classical ballet choreography, you can guess that the audience were surprised by what they saw with the Rite of Spring. Some eyewitnesses and commentators say that the discomfort in the audience started during the entrance and became even louder when the curtain of the dancers dancing in "Prophecies of Spring" was opened. They say that what is shocking is not Stravinsky's music but the ugly, earthy swaying and wobbling designed by Nijinsky. In his autobiography, Stravinsky writes that the mocking laughter that started from the first measures of the piece disgusted him, and he left the hall to watch the rest of the performance from the stage wings. He says the piece turned into a "terrible mayhem," where the voices on stage drown out Nijinsky's voice shouting step numbers to the dancers. As you can see, our child has been in trouble again. But there is someone who is quite pleased with this premiere, which everyone ruthlessly criticizes and mocks; Diaghilev. At the end of the night , as everyone is running away from the hall , Diaghilev says ' this is exactly what I wanted ' for the Spring Rite . After all, our impresario enjoys all kinds of sensational work, we know… The Rite of Spring, created by our fantastic quartet shortly after this scandal, has written its name in the history of art with golden letters and hosts various new choreographies that are still continuing today.

Stravinsky ve Diaghilev


Scherliess , Volker (1982) Meister werke der Musik -Igor Strawinsky La sacre du Printemps, Wilhelm Fink Verlag, Munich Germany

Grigoriev , Serge Leonidovich , translated ; Vera Bowen (1960) The Diaghilev Ballet, Penguin Books, Middlesex England

Scharschuch , Horst (1960 )Analyse zu Igor Strawinsky's “Sacre du Printemps”,Gustav Bosse Verlag , Regensburg Germany


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