History of Ballet Series; Volume 6, Ballet Russes After Diaghilev

We’ll talk about the fate of Ballet Russes and the ballet world following Serge Diaghilev’s death in a moment. First, we have some California Ballet news that we’d like to share with you!

The holidays are a time for giving, and California Ballet Company is in the giving mood. Our opening night performance of The Nutcracker is dedicated to the brave men and women who risk their lives in service to our country, and their families. It’s Military Night at The Nutcracker!


We have some special things planned for that evening! Miss California, Arianna Afsar, will join us to start the night off by singing the National Anthem. She will be joined onstage by a JROTC Color guard. California Ballet has also given away 1,400 tickets to active and reserve members of the military and their families.

To highlight it all, CBC staff member Joe Shumate, retired first sergeant Mark Keller, and CBC dancer Amanda Daly appeared on NBC San Diego 7/39 morning news yesterday.

Missed it? Would you like to see it? Well then CLICK HERE!

California Ballet Company has also partnered this year with the Emilio Nares Foundation in order to bring children with life threatening illnesses and their families to the Nutcracker free of charge. This is a cause that is very near and dear to all of our hearts here at California Ballet, and we’d like to give our online community the chance to lend a hand.

ENF logo

Check out our Facebook Causes Project, and help us bring these intrepid children and their families to the ballet: CLICK HERE!


Now, as we promised, let’s take a look at what happened to the Ballet Russes following the death of Serge Diaghilev:



With the passing of Serge Diaghilev, after a fleeting twenty years of brilliance, the original Ballet Russes dissipated and the company met its untimely demise. The ideas and vision of Diaghilev, however, did not dissipate so readily. The ballet superstars and the formula for box-office success continued to inspire the world of ballet to thrive and expand  over the next few decades.



The most widely recognized successor of Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes  was a company that was founded in 1932 by Colonel From the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production of Wassily de Basil and Rene Blum. Capitalizing on the success of Diaghilev’s company, the two artistic entrepreneurs revived the vaunted organization, this time calling it the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo. Several of the dancers from the original Ballets Russes joined the ranks of the new company, with new choreography provided by George Balanchine and Leonide Massine. (Balanchine was let go after only one year, after audiences proved to prefer the Diaghilev repertoire and Massine choreography.)

Unfortunately, de Basil and Massine did not get along too well. After a major falling-out in 1938 between the financier and choreographer, the two bid each other goodbye. Blum and Massine continued to run the Ballet Russes de Montecarlo. Basil took off on his own and founded another company, calling his the Original Ballet Russes.

LeonideMassine Leonide Massine 

You might think that two rival companies sharing the same roots and nearly the same name might not be good for business. That may be true, but it was fantastic for the world of ballet! With two companies preserving the Diaghilev legacy while touring the globe, the entire world began to be exposed to classical dance. Interested and informed audiences began to grow outside of the previously elite artistic circles and cultural centers.

SolHurok Sol Hurok 

The two vying companies were managed by the same man, Sol Hurok. Hurok was a name to be reckoned with in the artistic world. The man managed many big names, such as: Isadora Duncan, Michel Fokine, Anna Pavlova, Isaac Stern, and many more. His influence was far flung and well felt for the better part of the twentieth century. In an attempt to reunite the two competing Ballet Russes, Hurok continuously booked them in close proximity to each other. Ultimately, Hurok was unable to get the two companies to reunite. The offer extended to de Basil did not meet his liking, and further attempts at a reunion were abandoned. Hurok did, however, continue to book the companies near each other, although their ultimate fates would differ greatly.

 deBasil Colonel Wassily de Basil

De Basil’s Original Ballet Russes continued along into World War II. Unable to function in a war-suppressed economy, in 1941 the company found its way to Havana, Cuba where it continued to struggle financially. Unable to pay their dancers what they should have been paid, principals took corps roles, and many dancers were forced to find work in local nightclubs in order to get by.

De Basil took his company to back to London after the war, where they would dance their final performance. Unable to pay their dancers or their bills, the Original Ballet Russes finally turned off the stage lights in 1947.


The company that most Americans will know and recognize is the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo (under the direction of Rene Blum and Leonide Massine) . This company spent a lot of time in New York City. More importantly, it toured the United States, bringing classical dance to regions and people that previously had no access or exposure to the fine art. Through constant touring Monte Carlo produced a new generation of fans, and paved the way for the United States to take center stage in the ballet world.

The Monte Carlo left its extensive touring of Europe behind as World War II broke out, and found its way to the United States to begin spreading its influence on American culture.

They didn’t leave in time.

Before the company could travel overseas, Rene Blum was arrested in his home in Paris, France on December 12, 1941. He was amongst the first jews to be arrested by the French police in German occupied France. Blum was held in two different concentration camps before being shipped to Auschwitz, where he was ultimately killed by the Nazis.

ReneBlum Rene Blum 

This was not the death of the company, however. Continuing the vision of Diaghilev and Blum, the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo continued to tour the globe. In time, the company’s influence would extend beyond simple exposure, and entertainment. As dancers retired from the company, they would go on to form their own schools and companies. (The most notable of these spin-offs is George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet!)

Dancers would come and go, but the company would continue touring until 1968 when it would finally go bankrupt. Thus ended the living legacy of the Ballet Russes, but not it’s far-reaching influence. Forever changed, the ballet world would continue its upward trend in the latter part of the twentieth century. Ballet in the United States had been flavored and propelled to new heights by the Ballet Russes. American ballet was only beginning to come into its own, and would soon join the upper echelons of the ballet world . . .

. . . but that’s a story for another time.

Next in the History of Ballet series: America, Balanchine, and Beyond.


2 Responses to “History of Ballet Series; Volume 6, Ballet Russes After Diaghilev”

  1. John N. Barnes Says:

    I worked for Oakland Ballet and helped restore many Ballet Russes there. I have valid knowledge of the history of Diagheliv

  2. Quincy locksmith Says:

    Great Post. I have read many posts on this topic and you have written about it the best. Keep it up!

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