Art that Dances

2013 marks a big dance world anniversary: The Ballets Russes premiered Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, 100 years ago. And if you think ballet isn’t exciting, think again: The work was so controversial it actually caused a riot to break out in the theater on its opening night. Seriously—a bona fide riot!

Run by legendary impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes was famous not only for pushing the dance world’s envelope, but also for engineering collaborations with artists like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. When the company disbanded in 1929, it left behind a treasure trove of beautiful work—costumes, sets, posters, programs—created by some of the art world’s greatest. And partly in tribute to Rite of Spring‘s hundredth birthday, Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art will play host to some of those riches in “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced With Music.”

The exhibit, which runs from May 12 to September 2, has 135 pieces of Ballets Russes artwork, everything from set designs to film clips. It also includes the two largest objects ever to be displayed at the museum: a backdrop from the 1926 production of The Firebird, and a front curtain designed by Pablo Picasso.

The Washington Post got a sneak peek at some of the awesome art. Take a look!

Leon Bakst's decor for Act I of
Leon Bakst's costume design for Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun, from
Leon Bakst's costume for a Little God from
Leon Bakst's costume for a nymph from
Nicholas Roerich's costumes for male dancers in
Nicholas Roerich's maiden costumes from
Leon Bakst's costume for Vaslav Nijinsky as the Prince from the pas de deux 'L'Oiseau d'or' from
Natalia Goncharova's backcloth for the final scene of

Leon Bakst's decor for Act I of "Daphnis and Chloe," 1912.

Leon Bakst's costume design for Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun, from "L'Apres-midi d'un Faune," 1912.

Leon Bakst's costume for a Little God from "Le Dieu Bleu," 1912.

Leon Bakst's costume for a nymph from "Narcisse," 1911.

Nicholas Roerich's costumes for male dancers in "The Rite of Spring," 1913.

Nicholas Roerich's maiden costumes from "The Rite of Spring," 1913.

Leon Bakst's costume for Vaslav Nijinsky as the Prince from the pas de deux 'L'Oiseau d'or' from "Le Festin," 1909.

Natalia Goncharova's backcloth for the final scene of "The Firebird," 1926.

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