What is the Ballets Russes?

A melting pot for creativity, the Ballet Russes was a ballet company that brought together avant-garde composers, choreographers, performers and designers to become one of the most influential dance companies in history.


Who founded the Ballets Russes?

Founded in 1909 by Russian-born Serge Diaghilev, the ballet company started out as a seasonal offering, with the first productions taking place in Paris. However, the popularity of the Ballets Russes soon grew, leading to Diaghilev taking his dance company on the road and touring across Europe in 1911, later venturing further afield to the Americas from 1915.

Which composers worked with the Ballets Russes?

Debussy, Prokofiev, Richard Strauss and Stravinsky (some of the The best ballet composers of all time) were among the composers who worked with Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, creating pieces for productions such as The Rite of Spring (Stravinsky), Afternoon of a Faun (Debussy), Josephs-Legende (Strauss) and Chout (Prokofiev).

What happened to the Ballets Russes?

The company was dissolved in 1929, after Diaghilev’s death while he was still heavily in debt. However, the influence of Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes continued, leading to the creation of the Royal Ballet in 1931 and the New York City Ballet in 1948.

The music and choreography created for the Ballets Russes continue to inspire performances today, with numerous versions of the originals having played out in front of audiences around the world.


Poster by Jean Cocteau for the 1911 Ballet Russe season showing Nijinsky in costume for Le Spectre de la Rose, Paris.