The Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev erupted onto the cultural scene of Paris in 1909. For the next twenty years, the company cultivated an extraordinary group of emerging choreographers, composers, and artists, who collaborated to produce the first great ballet classics of the twentieth century.

By pioneering innovations in choreography and scene and costume design and changing the concept of ballet music, the Ballets Russes expanded the dramatic and emotional potential of ballet. Some of the Ballets Russes’s vanguard works that are still performed include Les Sylphides, The Firebird, Petrouchka, L’Après-midi d’un Faune, Parade, Les Noces, Les Biches, Apollo, and Prodigal Son. The man behind this achievement was the Russian impresario and entrepreneur Serge Diaghilev (1872–1929), who had the wisdom, imagination, shrewdness, and, most important, the ruthlessness required to nourish an artistic enterprise that revolutionized art, music, and dance.

The grand epoch of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes came to a close on August 19, 1929, when Serge Diaghilev died in Venice. Left without an heir apparent to its founder, the Ballets Russes ceased to exist. Its dancers and choreographers dispersed and formed other companies that crisscrossed the world for the next thirty years, but none exerted the creative influence of the original Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Ballets Russes de Serge Diaghilev, this exhibition draws from the rich collections of the Music Division of the Library of Congress, including the Alexandra Danilova Collection; Bronislava Nijinska Collection; Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Fund Collection; Serge Diaghilev/Serge Lifar Collection; Serge Grigoriev/Ballets Russes Collection; and the Spivacke Fund Collection.