Andrew Solomon on Ballets Russes

THE THREE BALLET companies that emerged following Diaghilev’s death in 1929 and the subsequent dissolution of his legendary Ballet Russe were the greatest dance troupes in the world in their day, and all contemporary ballet owes them a debt. From the 1930s to the 1960s, they were a nexus of splendid dancing; of magnificent choreography, by Léonide Massine, George Balanchine, David Lichine, and others; and of fantastic spectacle, including costumes and scenery by such distinguished artists as Matisse and Dalí. The first of these companies, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, took the best exiled Russian performers to the great houses of Europe and featured three “baby ballerinas,” cast as children, two of them not yet thirteen when thrust into the brightest spotlight. It triumphed, ensuring the continued existence of a significant audience for ballet itself. Its two successors—one retained

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