Join us for this virtual event!
Renowned dance critics and historians Rupert Christiansen and Lynn Garafola will discuss Serge Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes, Bronislava Nijinska, and their new books Diaghilev’s Empire and La Nijinska.
Rupert Christiansen, a renowned dance critic and arts correspondent, presents a sweeping history of the Ballets Russes and of Serge Diaghilev’s dream of bringing Russian art and culture to the West.
Serge Diaghilev, the Russian impresario and founder of the Ballets Russes, is often said to have invented modern ballet. An art critic and connoisseur, Diaghilev had no training in dance or choreography, but he had a dream of bringing Russian art, music, design, and expression to the West and a mission to drive a cultural and artistic revolution.
Bringing together such legendary talents as Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, this complex and visionary genius created a new form of ballet defined by artistic integrity, creative freedom, and an all-encompassing experience of art, movement, and music. The Ballets Russes’s explosive color combinations, sensual and androgynous choreography, and experimental sound was called “barbaric” by the Parisian press, but its radical style usurped the entrenched mores of traditional ballet.
Diaghilev’s Empire, the publication of which marks the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of Diaghilev’s birth, is an impeccably researched and daring reassessment of the phenomenon of the Ballets Russes and the Russian Revolution in twentieth-century art and culture. Rupert Christiansen, the dance critic for The Spectator, explores the fiery conflicts, outsize personalities, and extraordinary artistic innovations that make up this enduring story of triumph and disaster.
Rupert Christiansen is the dance critic for The Spectator. He was also dance critic for The Mail on Sunday from 1995 to 2020 and has written on dance-focused subjects for many publications in the UK and the United States, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's & Queen, The Observer, Daily Telegraph, The Literary Review, Dance Now, and Dance Theatre Journal. He was the opera critic and arts correspondent for The Daily Telegraph from 1996 to 2020, and is the author of a dozen nonfiction books, including Romantic Affinities and City of Light. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1997 and lives in London.
Lynn Garafola's La Nijinska is the first biography of twentieth-century ballet's premier female choreographer.
Overshadowed in life and legend by her brother Vaslav Nijinsky, Bronislava Nijinska had a far longer and more productive career. An architect of twentieth-century neoclassicism, she experienced the transformative power of the Russian Revolution and created her greatest work - Les Noces - under the influence of its avant-garde. Many of her ballets rested on the probing of gender boundaries, a mistrust of conventional gender roles, and the heightening of the ballerina's technical and artistic prowess. A prominent member of Russia Abroad, she worked with leading figures of twentieth-century art, music, and ballet, including Stravinsky, Diaghilev, Poulenc, Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Frederick Ashton, Alicia Markova, and Maria Tallchief. She was also a remarkable dancer in her own right with a bravura technique and powerful stage presence that enabled her to perform an unusually broad repertory. Finally, she was the author of an acclaimed volume of memoirs in addition to a major treatise on movement. Nijinska's career sheds new light on the modern history of ballet and of modernism more generally, recuperating the memory of lost works and forgotten artists, many of them women. But it also reveals the sexism pervasive in the upper echelons of the early and mid-twentieth-century ballet world, barriers that women choreographers still confront
Lynn Garafola is Professor Emerita of Dance at Barnard College, Columbia University. A dance historian and critic, she is the author of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Legacies of Twentieth-Century Dance, and the editor of several books, including The Diaries of Marius Petipa, André Levinson on Dance (with Joan Acocella), José Limón: An Unfinished Memoir, and The Ballets Russes and Its World. She has curated several exhibitions, including Dance for a City: Fifty Years of the New York City Ballet, New York Story: Jerome Robbins and His World, Diaghilev's Theater of Marvels: The Ballets Russes and Its Aftermath, and, most recently, Arthur Mitchell: Harlem's Ballet Trailblazer.
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