Les Ballets Russes and the 20th Century Dance Revolution

Instructor: Tatiana Senkevitch

The early twentieth century witnessed a radical reevaluation of dance and its place in the hierarchy of the arts. Previously viewed as a subsidiary part of the opera or performed as ballet-féerie at royal theaters, dance ascended to a leading position in the 20th-century synthesis of art and multimedia. The key figures in this transformation were Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev and his traveling company, Les Ballets Russes, which performed predominantly in Europe and the Americas throughout the 1910s and 1920s. In producing iconic ballets such as Petrushka, The Afternoon of a Faun, The Firebird, and The Rite of Spring, Diaghilev worked with the cutting edge of contemporary composers, theater and costume designers, and innovative choreographers to create a veritable dance revolution that continues to inspire dance production in the 21st century.

The sensational acclaim of Les Ballets Russes rested on Diaghilev’s conception of spectacle as a synthesis of multiple arts. In this course, we will trace the numerous artistic intersections explored by Les Ballets Russes. For music, we will regard collaborations with progressive composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Maurice Ravel. For set and costume design, we will analyze cooperations with artistic trailblazers including Léon Bakst, Pablo Picasso, and Natalia Goncharova. For choreography, we will delve into the work of emerging talents such as Vaclav and Bronislava Nijinski and Leonid Massin. And finally, from a promotional standpoint, we will analyze the creation of the first megastars of dance including Anna Pavlova and Vaclav Nijinski. We will round out the course with an assessment of Les Ballets Russes’ legacy in the work of 21st-century choreographers such as John Neumeier and Pina Bausch.

As the course concludes, we will have gained not only an in-depth appreciation of Les Ballets Russes, but also the critical ability to think beyond the limits of a single art form in assessing the significance and impact of the artistic endeavor.

Maximum enrollment: 10


Spring 2021
18 hours (4-6 weeks)
Exact times and dates are determined in consultation with the participants.


5 Rue des Fontaines du Temple
75003, Paris

All PICT courses are held in person.



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