SERGEY DIAGHILEV IN THE UK

After the triumph of the first Ballets Russes in Paris  Diaghilev received invitations from English impresarios. The first of the Ballets Russes took place in England on June 26, 1911 and was dedicated to the coronation of George V. During the period of 1911 to 1914 Great Britain saw six Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. English magnates Joseph and Thomas Beacham and Lady Ripon initiated the Ballets Russes. Diaghilev’s ballets had a stunning success among the British people. The British public began to look at ballet in a different way. That time operas were prevailing in London theaters. Ballet no longer attracted attention of the English public and was performed only in music-halls. Queen Alexandra and her sister Empress Mariya Alexandrovna were present at the Ballets Russes. In Germany the ballets were visited by Emperor Wilhelm II who was delighted by the Cleopatra.

Sergei Diaghilev, Vladimir Polunin,

and Pablo Picasso

Covent Garden Studio, London 1919

Covent Garden Theatre. London

Igor Stravinsky and Sergey Diaghilev at London airport

Diaghilev’s ballets showed the latest achievements of the Russian culture of the XIX century. The English people saw the following ballets: the Swan Lake, the Sleeping Beauty, the Giselle, the Firebird, the Armida’s Pavilion, the Spirit of Rose, the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, the Petrushka and many other. Diaghilev’s ballets and separate performances in music-halls in England at the beginning of the XX century helped to form an English national ballet school. 
In 1912, Diaghilev engaged foreign composers. R. Hahn took part in creation of the Blue God ballet. M. Ravel wrote music to the Daphnice and Chloe. C. Debussy’s music was used in the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. M. Fokin and V. Nijinsky staged their ballets. But unlike the previous performances, these ballets left the French public indifferent. After the failures in Paris, Diaghilev showed his ballets in London, Berlin, Vienne and Budapest where the public was more loyal.

Tamara Karsavina in the ballet " Blue God"

"Koshcheevo Kingdom"
Sketch of the scenery for the ballet "The Firebird"
Author A.Golovin

Tamara Karsavina

and Adolf Bolm in the ballet " The Firebird"

"Faun's Afternoon Rest"
Sketch of a costume for the ballet

Author Leon Bakst

In Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet we can see a synthesis of music, singing, dance and art as if they were a single unity. This was revolutionary for that time. That is why Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet would cause either a hurricane of applause or heavy criticism. 
While looking for new forms, experimenting with plastique, decorations, music forms, Diaghilev’s performances were ahead of his time. Not all of his novelties were accepted positively. For example, in 1912 the ballet  Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun  lasted just for 8 minutes at the Chatelet Theater. But it was a failure due to negative reviews. The public considered the ballet vulgar and inaccessible for the big stage. The Parisians booed the performance. A scandal appeared in the mass media. But the same performance did not cause any indignation in London.  
In 1913 in Paris, the premier of the Rite of Spring ballet was also booed by the indignant public. But in 1929 in London this ballet was very successful and was applauded a lot. The Scheherazade and the Polovetsky Dances (from King Igor) were not understood by the English nobles.  

Bronislava Nijinskaya, Anton Dolin, Jean Cocteau, Leon Volzikowski and Lidia Sokolova

Alicia Markova

(Lillian Alice Marks)

Tamara Karsavina

and Vaclav Nijinsky

in the ballet

"The Ghost of the Rose "("The Vision of the Rose")

Ninette de Valois

Diaghilev’s ballets rose interest in the traditional Russian costumes and set a new fashion trend. The wife of King George VI was wearing a wedding dress in the Russian folk tradition.

"Seasons" Diaghilev had a great influence on the development not only of Russian ballet, but also the world of choreographic art in general, and played a significant role in the promotion of Russian culture in Europe, and also contributed to the establishment of fashion on all Russian. For example, the English dancers Patrick Healey-Kay, Alice Marks and Hilda Munnings took Russian pseudonyms (or Anton Dolin, Alicia Markova and Lydia Sokolova).

The development of ballet in Great Britain was largely influenced by the following participants of Diaghilev's entreprises^ Tamara Karsavina, Ninette de Valois and Marie Rambert. Ninette de Valois and Tamara Karsavina took part in  organization of the Royal Ballet (Covent Garden). While Marie Rambert was the founder of the National Ballet of Great Britain.

Prince Albert and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. 1923

Elizabeth's Wedding Dress Bowes-Lyon - The Duchess of York

Marie Rambert at the rehearsal

Ninette de Valois as Swanilda

in the ballet

"A futile precaution"