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Ballets Russes

The ballet company Ballets Russes created a sensation in Western Europe in the early years of the 20th century, due to the great vitality of Russian ballet, as compared with what was current in France at the time. It became the most influential ballet company in 20th century, and that influence, in one form or another, has lasted to this day.

Ballets Russes was established by the impresario Serge Diaghilev in 1909 who ran it until his death in 1929. The dancers and choreographers associated with it included George Balanchine, Alexandra Danilova, Michel Fokine, Tamara Karsavina, Serge Lifar, Alicia Markova, Leonide Massine, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Tamara Toumanova. Designers included Bakst, Braque, Picasso, Tchelitchev, and Utrillo. Composers included Debussy, Milhaud, Poulenc, Prokofiev, Ravel, Satie, and, most notably, Igor Stravinsky, whom Diaghilev spotted when he was virtually unknown and whose career he launched.

A list of the ballets premiered by Diaghilev include Les Sylphides (1909), The Firebird (1910), Le Spectre de la Rose (1911), Petroushka (1911), Afternoon of a Faun (1912), The Rite of Spring (1913), The Song of the Nightingale (1920) and The Prodigal Son (1929).

After Diaghilev's, death the company's property was claimed by creditors, and the dancers were scattered. In the subsequent years, the company (in name only) was revived as the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and as the Original Ballet Russe.