Pilgrimage to an Imagined West: Antiquity and the Early Ballets Russes

Exhibition Lecture

Lynn Garafola

Columbia University

“We were all revolutionists in those days ... fighting for the cause of Russian art,” Serge Diaghilev, the founder and longtime director of the Ballets Russes, told American critic Olin Downes in 1916.  “We have tried, ... to build up an art expressive in every phase of the Russian temperament.”  Raised in Perm at the foot of the Ural Mountains, Diaghilev began his artistic journey in the Russian heartland, and the early years of the Ballets Russes were filled with its sounds, stories, and images.  But the Mediterranean world also beckoned, and its call led to the creation of several ballets set in antiquity, in the imagined heart of the West.  This talk will explore the idea of antiquity in the Ballets Russes as an assertion of Western identity amid the exotic splendors of Russianness.

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