Russian Ballet History

Diaghilev's Ballets Russes 1909-1929

PBS-WHYY "Delaware Experience" television coverage

Click here to see the video of the collection's television coverage on PBS

The Collection's Beginings

Ballets Russes’ Treasures Uncovered In The Basement of Delaware

Ballet School

The Academy Of The Dance, co-founded by Helena Antonova, a former Diaghilev dancer and James Jamieson in 1956, was closed last year when it’s Director, Victor Wesley had to move back to his homeland of Scotland due to a prolonged illness.  During the selling off of the building’s contents, my daughter, a former The Academy Of The Dance student, Aynsley, was excited by a 1917 autographed pointe shoe of famed Ballets Russes dancer and choreographer, Bronislava Nijinska.  She saw these items in a box when she visited The Academy to assist First State Ballet Theatre Director, Kristina Kambalov in the purchasing some old scenery and costumes.  In addition to the pointe shoe, were photos of Bronislava Nijinska and a Nijinska Ballets Russes program from a Paris performance as well as a personal letter from Bonislava to Madame Antonova.  Aynsley and I had recently watched a documentary on the Ballets Russes and she recognized their names and faces as some of the folks in the box.  Aynsley called me immediately and we did a "purchase-n-rescue" operation of many candid and autographed photos of Ballets Russes dancers including Alexandra Danilova, Freddie Franklin, and Mia Slavanska.  One of the treasures items is the autographed portrait of Mikhail Fokine, Ballet Russes choreographer of "Dying Swan" for Anna Pavlova, "Firebird" for Tamara Karsavina, and over 16 other ballets.

The former founder of The Academy Of The Dance, Helena (Lena) Antonova, her husband Leon Woizikowski and their daughter Sonia, were all principal dancers with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Col.W. Basil's Ballet Russe and The Original Ballet Russe companies.  They danced with Nijinska and her brother Vaslav Nijinsky, Serge Lifar, Vera Fokina, Anna Pavlova, Olga Spessiva, Leonide Massine, Adoplh Bolm and many others.  The discovery of these items has led to a rather extensive personal collection of Ballets Russes ephemera. 

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