Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was the premier ballet company of
The year of Diaghilev's death was the beginning of the Great Depression. The Depression was worldwide. Regardless, ballet companies sprung up all over the western world. Many of the companies took the name Ballet Russe: Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, The Original Ballet Russe, Rene Blum's Ballet Russe.
Two men who joined forces to continue the Diaghilev tradition were René Blum, director of the Monte Carlo Opera Ballet, and Colonel Vassili de Basil, associated with L'Opera Russe à
The repertoire consisted of works from Diaghilev's company and new works by Balanchine and Massine. Balanchine was fired in the first year, because the audiences preferred Diaghilev's repertoire and Massine's ballets.
René Blum and
Because of difficulties between Rene Blum and Colonel de Basil, Blum gave up his share of the partnership, leaving Massine and Col. de Basil to run the company. According to many reports, it was impossible to work with de Basil. Massine left after his contract was fulfilled and returned to
When Massine discovered his ballets belonged to Colonel de Basil, he brought a law suit in
Meanwhile, Col. W. de Basil's (photo below) company called themselves Covent Garden Ballet Russe, and finally Original Ballet Russe. In 1938, the two companies were performing in
Through an all-night session, the management of the two companies got together and ironed out their differences. But at the last moment Colonel W. de Basil said no to the offer. Once Hurok was managing both companies at the same time, and he booked the Ballet Russe to play four weeks at the Hollywood Theatre (now called the Mark Hellinger), immediately followed by the Original Ballet Russe. It was the longest ballet season to hit
Eventually Serge Denham took over the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as director and artistic advisor. When World War II started, the companies made
He was born Vassily Grigorievich Voskresensky in Kaunas, Lithuania. He is said to have been a colonel in the Cossack army although his claim to the title "Colonel" is disputed. De Basil was demobilised from the army in 1919 and worked as an entrepreneur in Paris.
Following the death of Sergei Diaghilev in 1929, the members of his Ballets Russes went in many directions. De Basil and René Blum, ballet director at the Monte Carlo Opera, founded the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo in 1931. The ballet gave its first performance in Monte Carlo in 1932. Blum and de Basil did not agree artistically, leading to a split, after which Col. Basil renamed his company initially Ballets Russes de Colonel W. de Basil; in 1938 he renamed his company again, as the Covent Garden Russian Ballet; finally, in 1939, he gave the company its final title, the Original Ballet Russe.
Serge Grigoriev was born in Tikhvin, Russia. Grigoriev was trained at the Imperial Theatre School in St. Petersburg, from where he graduated in 1900. He was appointed regisseur for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1909 and remained in that position until the company disbanded on Diaghilev's death in 1929. With the Diaghilev company he also created the roles of Shah Shariar in Scheherazade, Guidone in Le Coq d'or and the Russian Merchant in La Boutique Fantasque.
After Diaghilev's death Grigoriev worked with Colonel de Basil and his various companies from 1929 to 1951. For de Basil he drew on his earlier experiences to stage ballets from the Diaghilev repertoire. He came to Australia as regisseur-general on the Covent Garden Russian Ballet tour of 1938 to 1939 and the Original Ballet Russe tour of 1939 to 1940. He was accompanied on the Original Ballet Russe tour by his wife, the ballerina Lubov Tchernicheva. Later, with Tchernicheva he was responsible for mounting revivals in the 1950s and 1960s of ballets by Fokine and overseeing rehearsals of works by Leonide Massine. Grigoriev's memoirs were published as The Diaghilev Ballet 1909-1929 and were translated into English in 1953.
Rene Blum was a former art critic, publisher, theatre director, choreographer and the founder of the Ballet de l'Opéra at Monte Carlo. In 1931, Blum was hired to form the Ballet of the Opera of Monte-Carlo by Prince Louis II of Monaco. Also in 1931, Blum joined forces with Colonel de Basil to found the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. Blum contributed the artistic vision and de Basil the business acumen. Balanchine and Massine were hired, Diaghilev's old ballets were restaged. In 1935, after quarrelling with Colonel W. de Basil, Blum left the company to form his own group. The company was called the René Blum Ballets de Monte-Carlo. Mikhail Fokine was ballet master. It eventually became the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, that was co-directed by Leonide Massine.
René Blum was arrested on December 12, 1941 in his Parisian home. He wasamong the first Jews to be arrested in Paris by the French Police. He was held in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp, then in the Drancy internment camp. On September 23, 1942, Blum was shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp. where he was later killed by the Nazis.
Sol Hurok, Solomon Isiaevich Hurok, was born Solomon Izrailevich Gurkov, on April 9, 1888, in Ukraine. Sol was a world famous 20th century American impresario,who managed many major performing artists including singer Marian Anderson. Hurok moved to the United States in 1906 and became a naturalized citizen in 1914.
In 1959, after 35 years of effort, Sol Hurok brought the historic Russian Bolshoi Ballet to the United States for an 8 week performance tour. In 1961, he brought Russia's Kirov Academy of Ballet and the Igor Moiseyev Ballet Company to the U.S. In 1962, he achieved the extraordinary by again bringing the Bolshoi to the U.S. for a tour at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
In 1974, en route to a meeting with David Rockefeller to discuss a Rudolf Nureyev project, Sol Hurok died of a heart attack. More than two thousand people nearly filled Carnegie Hall for his funeral, where Marian Anderson delivered the final eulogy.
Sergei Ivanovich Denham was born Sergei Ivanovich Dokouchaiev on October 22, 1896 in Russia. Sergei was one of eight children, and when his banker father died, a French governess was hired to help care for the children. It was his governess that Denham gave credit for nurturing his early love of ballet. She once made him a play theater out of an orange carton and cut out paper ballerina dolls for him to play with.
The family moved from Samara on the Volga to Moscow, and Sergei was sent to boarding school near St. Petersburg. Eventually he finished his schooling at The Moscow Commercial Institute. Sergei had a particular talent for the piano. In May of 1915, Serge Denham married Valentine Nikolaevna Yershova, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. The couple had two daughters of their own, Irina, Valentine.
Denham's professional career was extremely diversified. When World War I began he worked for the Red Cross. After the 1917, Revolution he took his family east, first to the home of relatives in Uralsk, then to Vladivostok, where he became director of dormitories at the university. Next he served as representative of Admiral A. V. Kolchak's anti-Bolshevik government. His job entailed procuring funds to support Kolchak's troops -- work that would later prove quite useful in raising money for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After the revolution, he and his family immigrated to the United States.
In 1921, they arrived in the United States and the first job he found was in an antique store on West 59th Street. A newly acquired friend introduced Denham to the banking world, and he soon found himself vice-president at Bankers Trust. He was put in charge of establishing and overseeing branches in Eastern Europe and eventually London, Paris, and Vienna. Denham was an outgoing, social man and through his travels was able to meet many people who would help precipitate his ultimate career choice. One was Serge Diaghilev whom Denham said first planted the seed of the idea that America could and should be the next great center of ballet; another was a group of Colonel de Basil's dancers on tour whom he found enchanting; and yet another was Watson Washburn, an attorney and balletomane whom Denham first met on the boat from Shanghai. Washburn, in turn, introduced Denham to several wealthy ballet lovers, setting the final stage for what was to come.
By the mid-thirties the Blum/de Basil Company was having problems. Seizing the moment, Denham called together his new friends and formed World Art Inc., a stock corporation which then purchased Blum's company. Denham was appointed president of this new ballet organization -- a post he was to hold throughout the entire length of the company's existence.
Along with the classics, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, under Denham's direction, produced several quite novel works, including Bacchanale, Labyrinth, Rodeo, Frankie and Johnny, and Billy Sunday, as well as a number of works by women ballet choreographers including Agnes de Mille, Bronislava Nijinska, and Ruth Page.
Sergei Denham died in New York City on January 30, 1970, after being struck by a bus as he was leaving the Ballets Russes offices. His wife died several months later. He is survived by his two daughters.