Beyond Ballet Russes

Last night in true fairytale style (except for the carriage – we got the 12 instead) I was whisked away to see my first ever ballet at the London Coliseum.

From 1909-1929 the iconic figure Diaghilev amalgamated leading artists, composers and choreographers to collaborate on new ballet pieces for his company the Ballets Russes, or The Russian Ballet, often regarded as the greatest ballet company of the 20th century.

The show we saw, Beyond Ballets Ruses, was based on contemporary interpretations of some of the pieces they created: Firebird, The Rite of Spring, Faun(e) & L’Aprés-midi d’un faune.

The first act was the Firebird:

I was immediately mesmerised. The lead dancer’s fluidity and grace, perfectly in harmony with the music of Stravinsky was beautiful. As more dancers were introduced to the act I became immersed in the scene, eyes flitting frantically across the stage attempting to drink everything in.

Having premiered in 1910, the Firebird is an iconic ballet illustrating the tale of the creature who is both a blessing and a curse to its captor. The costume for the main dancer (which can be seen in the video above) was an exquisite mixture of gold, purple and green, its detachable feathers kept in place with industrial strength magnets.

L’Aprés-midi d’un faune was a group piece focusing around a central character – the faune – who is extremely provocative. The scene takes place with a backdrop and costumes making it reminiscent of two dimensional decorative Greek art; it reminded me very much of the tale of Hercules.

The next piece – Faun(e) shows the passing of time and the evolution of processes when moving from generation to generation. Two male dancers portrayed this perfectly in conjunction with their minimalist background and the music of Debussy.

The final piece, The Rite of Spring, was the part I had been anticipating the most. Featuring an infamous score by Stravinsky (also used in Disney classic Fantasia) the dance revolves around the sacred pagan ritual of a dancer. As the drums, cymbals and double bass start to crash down in an ever more tense crescendo the dancing becomes increasingly frenzied until the final climax when the chosen one can dance no longer and the sacrifice is made.

An absolutely incredible experience which I would like to repeat asap.


All Photographs copyright of the English National Ballet.


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