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London Curator Discovers Rare Video Footage Of Ballet Russes

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From today's New York Times:

Our knowledge of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes troupe — not the versions after his death in 1929 — comes from texts, sketches, photographs and of course dances handed down over the years. But no film of a performance by the original company was thought to exist. Now a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where an exhibition on the company closed this month, has announced the discovery of less than a minute of performance footage on the Web site of the production house British Pathé. The site calls the clip “Festival of Narcissus” and describes “one female dancer (representing Narcissus?) w/chorus of female dancers.” Nowhere does it mention the Ballets Russes.

But Jane Pritchard, a curator of “Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929″ at the museum, wrote in a blog post titled “I eat my words!” that after giving a presentation on the exhibition, an audience member alerted her to the clip and asked if it was possibly the troupe. Ms. Pritchard said that after studying it, she now believes it was the troupe, that the dancer was probably a man, Serge Lifar, in a wig and that the setting was probably a June 1928 visit to Montreux, Switzerland. She concluded, “Now I have to say Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was filmed.”


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The clip was also easily recognisable as Les Sylphides. In the section of his biography of Diaghilev entitled 'With Diaghilev' Serge Lifar describes the 1928 season and states: "On June 2nd and 3rd we were in Montreux for the traditional Féte des Narcisses, where we gave Cimarosiana, Les Sylphides and Prince Igor."

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