1909 – 2009

You must check out this site – Russian Ballet History!   It is so rich in background on the founding of the itinerant ballet company by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev in 1909. The website is a rich treasure trove of memorabilia and information that hums with passion and respect.

From their front-page:

“Diaghilev had already enjoyed success in Paris in 1908 when he presented a season of Russian art, music, and opera. He was invited back the following year to give a programme of Russian opera and ballet. The company was initially in resident at the Théâtre Mogador and Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris years later moving to Monte Carlo. The company returned in 1910; in 1911 it was presented under Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and made its debut in London. Its’ original members were from the Tsar’s Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia where all its dancers were associated and trained. The company consisted of 13 members, all attaining a very high standard of dance. The company featured and premiered now-famous works by the great choreographers Marius Petipa, Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Leonide Massine, Vaslav Nijinsky, and a young George Balanchine at the start of his career. It created a sensation in Western Europe because of the great vitality of Russian ballet compared to French dance. Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes became one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century, in part because of its ground-breaking artistic collaboration among contemporary choreographers, composers, artists, and dancers. Its works were part of the avant-garde culture in Paris and France.”

After Diaghilev’s death in 1929 the company of dancers scattered and fractured to become two companies: the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo headed by René Blum and Colonel Vassily de Basil in 1933; and the Original Ballet Russe was founded by de Basil in 1939 after a falling out.

It was the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo that traveled extensively throughout Europe, the United States and Australia to became the most influential ballet company that inspired so many and revolutionized the dance world.

“The American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet Company are direct descendants of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.”

If you’re a lover of vintage dance photographs, check out the collection of fantastic digital collection over at the National Library of Australia. Amazing!


Sono Osato, from Omaha Nebraska began her career as a dancer/actress at the age of 14 with Ballet Russe and later danced with ABT.