Imagine enjoying the pure magic of a V&A exhibition in Barcelona. And not just any exhibition… Opening to the eager masses this past October 5th and continuing until January 15th, Diaghilev Ballets Russes – When Art Dances with Music spans the 20-year history of Serge Diaghilev’s eponymous dance company.
The impact that the Diaghilev Ballets Russes dance company still has upon many different disciplines is tangible. Art, theatre, dance and of course, fashion, all siphon inspiration from the glamorous and glorious ballets, operas and costumes. CaixaForum Barcelona presents this collection with an added section dealing with the influence of the Ballets Russes in Spain. The exhibition is divided into five different areas:
3) The First Seasons in Western Europe
4) The Ballets Russes Cut-off from its Roots
5) The Ballets Russes in Spain
More than 200 objects including dazzling costumes, posters, programmes, illustrations, photographs, theatre backdrops and documentary films, act as testimony of the great talent involved in the Diaghilev Ballets Russes and its large number of collaborators, artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Derain, Goncharova or Chanel; musicians such as Ravel, Satie, Falla, Stravinsky, Prokofiev or Rimski-Korsakov; dancers Fokine, Nijinsky, Pavlova, Karsavina or Massine, and writers such as Jean Cocteau.
Speaking of Jean Cocteau, it is interesting to see how everyone was connected back in the 1920s. (Must have been all that post-War partying.) Antonio del Castillo, the elusive fashion designer that managed to join his name with Lanvin’s during his tenure (Lanvin Castillo), made the costumes designed by Christian Bérard for Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast”. Christian Bérard was none other than Boris Kochno’s lover, who in turn, was one of Diaghilev’s collaborators and previous lovers. And we mustn’t forget about Coco Chanel. She designed costumes for several Diaghilev Ballets Russes productions, including “Le Train Bleu” in 1924 and “Apollon Musagete” in 1929. She was greatly influenced by the dance company and even enjoyed a stormy affair with Stravinsky, who composed several scores of music for the Diaghilev Ballet Russes. There was an entire whirlwind of bed-hopping.
What the exhibit is lacking in background information, is more than made-up for in costumes. The garments are exquisite, absolutely breath-taking. It seems impossible that these pieces were created for dancers, some seem so heavy. Many of the costumes are accompanied by photographs, which helps to see beyond the static garments and imagine how movement and corporeality would make all the difference.
Although many of the world’s greatest ballet dancers participated in the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev always considered his set and costume designers to be the true stars of his shows. Costume and set designer Leon Bakst was one of the most important people in the company’s history and his costume drawings in the exhibition are absolutely stunning. The costumes designed by the Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico for “Le Bal” in 1929 are another stellar highlight. Cartoonish wings and Roman columns sprout from coat shoulders, waistcoats, shirts and the backs of dresses.
From Paul Poiret and his designs, to Karl Lagerfeld who created the costumes for “The Dying Swan” to be reinterpreted by the English National Ballet, Yves Saint Laurent’s 1976 Ballets Russes collection to Erdem’s spring /summer 2011 collection, the Diaghilev Ballets Russes marked a before and after in fashion and continue to act as a great source of inspiration. Care to catch a glimpse of the magic? Want to step inside the world of Diaghilev? You won’t be disappointed.