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Last weekend I stuck to my initiative to get out more and went to see the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes exhibit with Badger.

I had hoped for some costumes, but the number exceeded my expectations! And these weren't the traditional tutus that I usually think of when I think about ballet: from the exoticism of the costumes from Scheherazade (inspiration for Poiret's Thousand and Second Night costume party) and Le Dieu Bleu to the sheer cubist whacky of the cardboard (?) costumes (props?) Picasso created for Parade.

That was another eye opener for me - I'd been familiar with Leon Bakst's work, but had no idea that Picasso, Matisse, and Chanel had ever done stage costuming, which I find striking as I've read biographies of these artists and I don't remember it ever being mentioned.

I also didn't know ballet could be so...kinky. The exhibition movie contained clips from Afternoon of a Faun (faun chases nymphs; failing to seduce one he pleasures himself with a veil they left behind) and Scheherazade (orgy in the harem!) that don't look explicit to modern eyes but are still fairly provocative in a stylized, choreographed way. I'd know that Stravinsky's Rite of Spring caused riots when it came out but didn't know about the others. Huh.

The pivot point for all this creativity was the Ballets Russes' impresario Diaghilev, who was merely adequate at all his personal artistic endeavors but was fantastic at getting inventive composers, dancers, and artists to work together. It made me think of the Renaissance, another time when the heavy hitting artists of the day all seemed to know each other, it was the same here: Nijinsky, Stravinsky, Cocteau, the aforementioned designers. Also it struck me that the provocations of Malcolm McLaren and Tony Wilson were a kind of logical progression from Diaghilev's staging of these controversial performances.

Picked up the catalog (I've learned my lesson re: Smithsonian publications: snag it when it's there, because they do very small runs) and it's very well illustrated (ObFencing: one of the costumes employs a fencing mask).

So, glad I went, would heartily recommend.

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