2 Oct

Spectre de la Rose photo by Amitava Sarkar

1909-2009: Collaborators of the Ballets Russes

The Ballets Russes was a revolutionary company that premiered in Paris in the early 20th century and sparked renewed excitement for the art of ballet, which had been in a period of decline.

Under the leadership of cultural impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the Ballet Russes drew upon the genius of leading artists to create innovative collaborations that brought together dancers, such as the famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova; choreographers, such as Michael Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Bronislava Nijinska, Léonide Massine and George Balanchine; composers, such as Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Ravel and Debussy; as well as painters, such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. 

This era has always fascinated choreographer and artistic director Dominic Walsh because of the vision of a total work of art, one in which dance, music, dramaturgy and decor combine to be greater than the sum of its parts. For three evenings starting Oct. 15, to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Ballets Russes and honor the great Diaghilev, Walsh will offer his 21st century take on classics from the era—The Firebird, The Afternoon of a Faun and The Dying Swan along with a revival of his breathtaking Le Spectre de la Rose. Like the original ballets featured in 1909-2009: Collaborators of the Ballets Russes, Walsh’s interpretations will deliver something undiscovered onto the stage that will awaken sensations, ideas, and passion for the arts. 

“I remember looking at old photographs of Nijinsky dancing when I was little,” says Walsh, “and being just mesmerized by his spirit captured in the print. It was probably one of those moments that formed my decision to be a dancer.” 

The highlight of this celebratory program will no doubt be Walsh’s tour de force adaptation ofThe Firebird  created on Paris Opera Ballet etoile Marie-Agnes Gillot and DWDT company member Domenico Luciano. (Etoile is the internationally acclaimed title given to only the most outstanding ballet dancers, translated as “star” in French.) For more information on the performances at the Hobby Center’s Zilkha Hall, go to:

In Walsh’s version of the ballet, the firebird is what brought a man and a woman together but what has also come to disappear with marriage and children. This existentialist cord that both characters used to possess has been silenced by the need to create a common ground in the household, to establish a series of implicit private domestic laws and find solutions to a more practical way of life. But a letter destabilizes this miserable order of convenience and causes the wife to reconsider her life. 

The  October program will also feature the world premiere of Walsh’s adaptation of The Afternoon of a Faun, the first piece of choreography by the great dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Premiered in 1912 by the Ballets Russes, Faun broke ground with Nijinsky’s famed two-dimensional imagery and stylistic hand gestures, Claude Debussy’s score of the same name that represented a turning point in the history of music with its tonality and harmonic function and, of course, the notorious orgasm scene.

In addition, the program will include a reprise of Walsh’s stunning interpretation of Michel Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose that premiered in 2006 as part of Dominic Walsh Dance Theater’s  E_Merging program. With this program, DWDT built on its long tradition of collaboration by working with local visual artists selected by Lawndale Arts Center to produce unique works that meld different disciplines into coherent pieces. With Vaslav Nijinsky as the Spirit of the Rose and Tamara Karsarvina as the Young Girl, the Ballets Russes premiered Fokine’s Spectre in 1911. Walsh uses the original music by Carl Maria von Weber and blends his beautiful movement with dramatic set and costumes by visual artist Katy Heinlein.

Photo by Amitava Sarkar: Walsh’s Le Spectre de la Rose


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