Once Upon a Time, “Art Danced with Music”
Costumes designed by Coco Chanel for Le Train Bleu in 1924 (© Victoria and Albert Museum, London)
It may be summertime, but there’s a field trip you have to take before school starts up again. Don’t worry! I have a feeling you’ll really like this assignment. Through October 6, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is hosting an exhibit called “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music.” Bringing together costumes, set designs, paintings and other memorabilia from the Ballets Russes’ heyday, this collection is sure to piqué your interest. (Pun definitely intended.) Why is “When Art Danced with Music” such a must-see? Let me count the ways…
1. From Fokine to Balanchine, Stravinsky to Tallchief, basically every big name in twentieth-century ballet is represented by the artistic objects on display. Look out especially for hilarious quotations from Serge Diaghilev about running the Ballets Russes, and for the costume Vaslav Nijinsky wore in Le Spectre de la Rose.
2. You’ll learn something new—and I’m not talking about dry, boring names and dates. The exhibit is chock-full of really fun factoids that bring the company’s history to life. For instance, did you know that couture queen Coco Chanel designed costumes for Le Train Bleu in 1924? Neither did I!
3. Inside the exhibit, actress Tilda Swinton narrates a great mini-movie about Diaghilev’s time as head of the company. This brief documentary plays continuously during museum hours. And if you happen to visit the NGA on August 24, you should definitely catch the afternoon showing of Ballets Russes, a full-length documentary that follows the company through all the ups and downs of the twentieth century. You’ll see performances by Danilova and other stars, plus exclusive interviews with former Ballets Russes dancers. Don’t miss it!
4. Even the museum’s Garden Café is celebrating Diaghilev’s legendary pet project. It’s been temporarily transformed into the “Café Ballets Russes,” a place where you can sample Russian specialties like beef stroganoff, blini with caviar and strawberries Romanoff. Dinner and a show? Don’t mind if I do!
5. It’s free! The National Gallery is part of the Smithsonian Institution, a group of museums in Washington that don’t charge admission fees. If the best things in life are free, this has got to be the best of the best.
“Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929” is on view through October 6 in the East Building of Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art. What are you waiting for?!
Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.
Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!
Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.
When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.
In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.
The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."
Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.
Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.
She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.
There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.
We always love a good halftime performance. And we LIVE for halftime performances involving talented kids. (Fingers and toes crossed that Justin Timberlake follows Missy Elliott's lead and invites some fabulous littles to share his Super Bowl stage.)
So obviously, our hearts completely melted for 5-year-old Tavaris Jones. Tavaris may have just started kindergarten, but during Monday night's game between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Detroit native danced with the panache of a veteran pro at halftime.