August 12, 2013
Few eras in the history of ballet have had such a profound and lasting impact as that of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes - on the art of dance, as well as on society at large. During the two decades between 1909 and 1929, Diaghilev not only brought the art of ballet to hundreds of towns and cities throughout Europe and North and South America that had never seen this kind of dance, but he also brought to the art form a richness and diversity of genres that have never been seen since. Music, art, design, and dance were fused at the highest levels with names like Stravinsky, Debussy, Picasso, Matisse, Chanel, Nijinsky, Balanchine, and many more of the most illustrious artists of the time and throughout history.
Last weekend, I was fortunate to catch the exhibition at the National Gallery of Art entitled Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced With Music. (The exhibition runs through the 2nd of September.) The exhibition draws on archives and collections from around the world, using costumes, drawings, film and musical excerpts to show a chronological progression of Diaghilev’s pioneering contributions to a new theatrical aesthetic and his groundbreaking role in the history of dance.
Alas, the Diaghilev phenomenon was a moment in time, unlikely to be replicated. To have such a variety of creative genius living and working in one place (Paris) at one time, and to have an impresario with the vision and will to bring it all together was serendipity, in the extreme.
What is happening now, though, in the world of dance is another kind of serendipity. Because of this explosion of creative talent that I have referred to before in these pages, we are beginning to see more new works, more diversity of work, a higher standard and greater versatility in dancing, a more dynamic engagement with audiences and, generally, a greater awareness of something special that is happening. I believe we will look back on this time, let’s say two decades from now, and it will be acknowledged as the threshold of a Golden Era in dance.
Now that Atlanta Ballet’s 13|14 Season has been announced, I hope you will take the opportunity to experience first-hand a glimpse at some of the phenomena to which I have been referring. I do not believe it is a hyperbole to say that what Atlanta Ballet is presenting to its audiences these days is somewhat of a microcosm of what we are beginning to see virtually across the globe in the world of dance. Choreographers such as Jorma Elo, Alexei Ratmansky, Ohad Naharin and even our choreographer in residence, Helen Pickett, as well as our own Tara Lee, are all representative of this wave of creative energy.
I look forward to seeing you in the theater. Let’s watch this thing happen together!