The Société des Bains de Mer presents an exhibition that celebrates the Russian influence on dance in the Principality throughout the years.

No celebration of Russia in Monaco would be complete without paying homage to the presence in the Principality of Sergei Diaghilev and his Ballets Russes during the first part of the last century. The Société des Bains de Mer has mounted an exhibition in the Atrium of the Casino entitled The Year of Russia Celebrates Dance, presenting some of the most beautiful and fascinating imagery of productions by the Ballets Russes during the years from 1911 to 1941.

Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes is widely acknowledged as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century, since it drew together some of the most talented artists in the history of ballet – dancers, choreographers, designers and composers. Dancers included Tamara Karsavina, Olga Spessivtseva, and Bronislava Nijinska; Vaslav Nijinsky, Serge Lifar, Léonide Massine and George Balanchine. The company featured works by Petipa, Fokine, Nijinska, Massine, Nijinsky and Balanchine, set to the music of composers such as Stravinsky, Debussy, Milhaud, Poulenc, Prokofiev and Ravel, with designs by artists such as Alexandre Benois, Léon Bakst, Jean Cocteau, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.

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As early as 1856, the Russian aristocracy recognised the attraction of the French Riviera, many of them escaping the harsh winters of their homeland for the milder Mediterranean climate, and for many years, Russian artists have been drawn to Monaco in particular – all the great Russian theatrical names have performed in Monte-Carlo.

Dancers from the St Petersburg Theatre were seen in Monaco in 1900, enthralling audiences with Marius Petipa’s rarely-seen 1896 ballet, The Cavalry Halt. In 1909, Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev brought his Ballets Russes to Monte-Carlo for the first time, and within two years, he made the decision to base his company there, establishing its headquarters in the Hôtel de Paris.

It was on the 9th of April, 1911 that the Monte-Carlo-based Ballets Russes gave its first performance in Monaco, with a programme which featured Scheherazade and Giselle, and on 19th April, Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina made their historic debut in Michel Fokine’s Le Spectre de la Rose, which he had created for them.
The Year of Russia Celebrates Dance presents life-sized images of dancers of the Ballets Russes, taken from productions such as Le Spectre de la Rose, Petrouchka, Carnaval and L’Aprés midi d’un faune. The exhibition also features giant reproductions of the programmes for Giselle and Scheherazade, and for Le Dieu Bleu, the Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, and from Les Sylphides. Included in the designs on display are creations by Jean Cocteau for Scheherazade and Giselle, and stage sets for Narcisse and Petrouchka.

Nijinsky and sister © Archives Monte-Carlo SBM

The Year of Russia Celebrates Dance, presented by the Société des Bains de Mer, runs in the Atrium of the Casino until 27th September. Admission is free, and the exhibition is open during the normal hours of the Casino. For further information, call +377 98 06 17 17.

Lead image © Monte-Carlo SBM/ Realis (edited); photo of Vaslav Nijinsky (right) and his sister, Bronislava Nijinska, in L’Aprés midi d’un faune © Archives Monte-Carlo SBM


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