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Alexandra

Diaghilev

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Dirac posted a wonderful link today -- to an article by Stravinsky on Diaghilev from the Atlantic Monthly 1953. I wanted to move it here so it would have a longer life and also to begin a discussion of Diaghilev.

"The Diaghilev I Knew," by Igor Stravinsky. From the Atlantic Monthly archives, November 1953:

http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/53nov/stravinsk53.htm

When I first found ballet, the shreds of Diaghilev's repertory were still around fairly regularly; today, very few of the Fokine, Massine works are given (in this country, an honorable exception is Joffrey Ballet, which does revive Diaghilev programs). In some ways, we are still "in the wake of Diaghilev," in Richard Buckle's phrase: the insistence on smashing barriers and producing something new (which is, I maintain, a simplification of Diaghilev; he was about something much more, and I think Stravinsky's article speaks to that).

What is Diaghilev's reputation today?

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Thank you, Dirac and Alexandra for a wonderful article, I had never read it before.

In Russia Diagilev's reputation grows day by day, when people gather more and more information about his heritage.

About Russian superstition, the article was written in November, 1953, the month I was born. Does it mean anything ?!

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Andrei, I'm sure the coincidence of article and birth has the most profound significance smile.gif

I was interested in your comment that Diaghilev's reputation grows in Russia today. Perhaps it's because that is a period that people are just able to discover -- it's certainly worthy of discovery smile.gif

He was the model for an artistic director for generations in the West.

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I am fascinated too about this comment, Andrei. Do you mean that in Russia Diaghilev is little known, or that he is not known at all (presumably because of Soviet restrictions)? What an amazing thrill is in store for Russians if they are only just finding out about him now!

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It's my understanding that when you departed Russia in those years, you disappeared -- your name wasn't mentioned, erased from history. Maybe this happened to Diaghilev?

It's interesting to me that Diaghilev was very closely associated with a number of distinguished artists and décor and costuming played a significant, some say preeminent, role in his productions. For reasons aesthetic and financial, less-is-more seems to have taken over, and I'm not sure that's such a great thing. When Yves Saint Laurent announced his retirement and all the articles came out, much space was given to his Ballets Russes collection. It's hard to imagine any designer of the future coming up with an NYCB collection, or a Royal collection.

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I think dirac's point about costuming is an interesting one. In this country, we have not grown up "in the wake of Diaghilev" and decor has been "WE don't need costumes. WE have great choreography" for far too long, IMO. Part of this was for economic reasons, and part of it still is.

Costumes can make a difference. This is another thing I learned from the Kirov's Sleeping Beauty. Some of the men's costumes were dated (the fairies cavaliers especially) but others, and especially the women's dresses, were gorgeous. We've become used to 12 maidens dressed in green, or an entire "court" dressed in the same, three-color dress, not to mention 90% percent of the contemporary repertory where the dancers wear their tank tops and bicycle shorts, that we're being cheated out of one of the important elements of ballet -- if one believes in Lully's first principles, which I do.

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