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Ballets Russes Style: Diaghilev's Dancers and Paris Fashion
by Mary E. Davis
Reaktion Books, 2010
Paper: 978-1-86189-757-2 | eISBN: 978-1-86189-885-2


In the two decades between its debut performance and the death of impresario Sergei Diaghilev in 1929, the Ballets Russes was an unrivalled sensation in Paris and around the world. But while scholarly attention has often centered on the links between Diaghilev’s troupe and modernist art and music, there has been surprisingly little analysis of the Ballets’ role in the area of tastemaking and trendsetting. Ballets Russes Style addresses this gap, revealing the extent of the ensemble’s influence in arenas of high style—including fashion, interior design, advertising, and the decorative arts.

In Ballets Russes Style,  Mary E. Davis explores how the Ballets Russes performances were a laboratory for ambitious cultural experiments, often grounded in the aesthetic confrontation of Russian artists who traveled with the troupe from St. Petersburg—Bakst, Benois, and Stravinsky among them—and the Parisian avant-garde, including Picasso, Matisse, Derain, Satie, Debussy, and Ravel. She focuses on how the ensemble brought the stage and everyday life into direct contact, most noticeably in the world of fashion. The Ballets Russes and its audience played a key role in defining Paris style, which would echo in fashions throughout the century.

Beautifully illustrated, and drawing on unpublished images and memorabilia, this book illuminates the ways in which the troupe’s innovations in dance, music, and design mirrored and invigorated contemporary culture.

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