On May 19, 1909, ballet changed forever. With the shocking debut performance of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, a modern era of unapologetic neoclassicism was born. Legs were turned in, feet were flexed and the stories were primal. This new company would introduce the world to Balanchine, Nijinsky and Stravinsky, and collaborate with artists such as Picasso and even Coco Chanel. It would become legendary for challenging classical conventions to the point of inciting riots in the theater.
Ballet companies everywhere have been celebrating Ballets Russes’ 100th anniversary. Boston Ballet’s Ballets Russes Centennial Celebration, May 14–17, will include Ballets Russes masterpieces such as Le Spectre de la Rose and Afternoon of a Faun, as well as the world première of Jorma Elo’s version of Le Sacre du Printemps. During Ballet West’s Treasures of the Ballets Russes performances March 27–April 4, the company will celebrate Diaghilev’s spirit of collaboration by inviting local artists to create prints on the theme of Prodigal Son. The Hamburg Ballet, Rome Opera Ballet, Australian Ballet and Bavarian State Ballet are also celebrating the Ballets Russes in April and May. —JS