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Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev

Diaghilev, Sergei Pavlovich (syĭrgāˈ pävˈləvĭch dyäˈgĭlyĭf) [key], 1872–1929, Russian ballet impresario and art critic, grad. St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music, 1892. In 1898 he founded an influential journal, Mir Iskusstva [The World of Art]. He took a company of Russian dancers to Paris (1909) and, with the assistance of the painters L. N. Bakst and Aleksandr Benois and the choreographer Michel Fokine, founded Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, a troupe that was to revolutionize the world of dance. Diaghilev's productions were based on the principles of asymmetry and perpetual motion; both music and scene design became an integral part of the dance. He also elevated the status of the male dancer and emphasized the masculine in ballet, an art form traditionally dominated by and glorifying the feminine. An imposing personality, he was associated with dancers of the first rank, such as Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina, Anna Pavlova, Alicia Markova, and Anton Dolin. His choreographers included Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska, and George Balanchine; Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Dukas, Falla, Milhaud, and Richard Strauss wrote music that was first performed for his company's ballets, and Picasso and Derain often worked with him as scene designers. Diaghilev's company was dissolved after his death, but its influence on 20th cent. dance continued through the work of its dispersed choreographers and dancers.

See biographies by B. Kochno (1970), J. Percival (1971), A. Haskell (1977), R. Buckle (1979, repr. 1984), and S. Scheijen (2010); L. Garafola, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (1989); J. Drummond, Speaking of Diaghilev (1999); L. Garafola and N. V. N. Baer, ed., The Ballets Russes and Its World (1999); J. Pritchard, ed., Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929 (museum catalog, 2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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