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DIAGHILEV,

dya'gyi-lysf,
Sergei
Pavlovich
(1 8 7 2 -1 9 2 9 ), Russian impresario and founder of
the Ballets Russes, the dance company that re­
vitalized ballet in the early 20th century when
it had becom e a ponderous and stereotyped the­
atrical form. His organizational genius brought
together the foremost of Russia’s academically
trained dancers and choreographers and the best
contemporary musicians and artists.
Diaghilev was bom in Novgorod on March
19, 1872. He turned from the study of law to
music, graduating from the St. Petersburg Con­
servatory in 1892. Art and theater interested him
almost as much as music. He organized several
exhibitions o f modern European art in St. Peters­
burg, and becam e one o f the founders as w ell as
the editor o f the W orld o f A rt, an illustrated jour­
nal published by a group o f artists and writers
that included the painters Leon Bakst and Alex­
andre Benois.
After a brief tenure as assistant to the direc­
tor o f the Imperial Theaters, Diaghilev, with
more imagination than money, organized an ex­
hibit of Russian art in Paris in 1906, follow ed by
concerts o f Russian music and a production o f
the opera Boris G odunov with Fyodor Chaliapin
in the title role. In 1909, Paris witnessed the
spectacularly successful first performances o f the
Ballets Russes de Sergei Diaghilev.
For the next 20 years the major cities o f Eu­
rope and the Western Hemisphere saw Diaghilev’s brilliant amalgam of choreography, decor,
music, and dance. The company went through
three periods: the first dominated by sumptu­
ous Asian ballets; the second, by chic French
works; and the third, by severe, stylized ballets.
During W orld War I, Diaghilev made Monte
Carlo his headquarters. After his death in Ven­
ice on Aug. 19, 1929, the company soon dis­
persed, and his choreographers and dancers car­
ried his ideas to other companies in Europe and
the United States. D iaghilev thus had a major
influence on 20th-century ballet. See also Bal ­
lets R usses de S ergei D iaghilev .
D oris H ering
“ Dance M agazine”