The Ballets Russes (French for The Russian Ballets) was an itinerant ballet company which performed under the directorship of Sergei Diaghilev between 1909 and 1929. They performed in many countries, including England, the U.S.A., and Spain. Many of the company's dancers originated from the Imperial Ballet of Saint Petersburg.
The company invited the collaboration of rising contemporary fine artists in the design of sets and costumes. These included Benois himself, Bakst, Braque, Gontcharova, Larionov, Picasso, Chanel, Matisse, Derain, Miró, de Chirico, Dalí, Bilibin, Tchelitchev, Utrillo, Nicholas Roerich, and Rouault. Their designs contributed to the groundbreaking excitement of the company's productions.
Leon Bakst, one of the most important
designersfor the Ballet Russe, was born in Grodno on May 10 1866. Aiding Diaghilev with the formation of Ballet Russe, Bakst assumed the role of artistic director. His sets and costumes brought him wide recognition. He is most noted for the sets and costumes for Scheherazade (1910), Firebird (1910), Le Spectre de la Rose (1911). He designed for Ballet Russe from 1909-1921.
Pablo Picasso designed Parade in 1917 for the Ballet Russe. Parade was the first ballet to include cubism sets and costumes.
Natalia Goncharova was born in 1881 near Tula, Russia. Her art was inspired by Russian folk art, fauvism, and cubism. She began designing for the Ballet Russe in 1921.
Although the Ballets Russes firmly established the twentieth-c
entury tradition of fine art theatre design, the company was not unique in its employment of fine artists. For instance, Savva Mamontov's Private Opera Company h
ad made a policy of employing fine artists, such as Korovin and Golovin, who went on to work for the Ballets Russes.