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Ballets Russes in Australia

Posted on November 12, 2010

The National Gallery of Australia holds a rich collection of Ballets Russes costumes, which will be on display from December 2010.

Ballets Russes: the art of costume will display 150 costumes, accessories, some original design drawings and stage scenery from 34 productions. It covers both Diaghilev’s original company and one of its major successors, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, formed by Colonel Wassily de Basil after Diaghilev’s death in 1929. This company toured Australia three times in the 1930s.

The exhibition includes some of the most famous and innovative costumes of the Ballets Russes: Alexandre Benois’ costume for Petrushka and Léon Bakst’s costume for the blue god in Le Dieu Bleu, both worn by Nijinsky; Henri Matisse’s costume for a Mourner in Le Chant du Rossignol: Mikhail Larionov’s cubist costumes for Chout; Giorgio de Chirico’s surrealist vision for the Young Man in Le Bal and Natalia Goncharova’s folk costumes from both the 1914 and 1937 productions of Le Coq d’Or. Benois’ backdrop for Petrushka is also on display.

51 of these costumes, previously too fragile to be put on display, have been restored over the past five years. 48 of the costumes are exhibited for the first time since they were last worn onstage in the 1940s. The exhibition is documented in a new 264-page catalogue, with essays by Robert Bell, Christine Dixon, Helena Hammond, Michelle Potter and Debbie Ward. The exhibition runs from December 10–March 20, 2011.

See www.nga.gov.au/BalletsRusses for more information.

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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