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Although it may not seem so on the surface, the world premiere of Black Swan caused an increased interest in the ballet and reminds me the Ballets Russes' centenary celebrations.

This video reports on the stunning performances at the National Opera of Paris which are closely linked with the history of Russian ballet. In February 2010 four famous Sergei Diaghilev’s ballets (The Three–cornered Hat choreography by Massine, The Specter of the Rose choreography by Fokine, L’après-midi d’un faune choreography by Nijinsky, Petrouchka choreography by Fokine) were performed by the Opera de Paris at the magnificent Palais Garnier. The reconstructed adaptations were performed by French dancers in their original choreography. Surprisingly well-preserved many dance videos, the set designs, actual scrims, the glorious costumes and costume sketches helped to recreate lavish performances today in their entirety.

On a historical note

The French-born dancer Marius Petipa (1822-1910) helped redefine ballet in Russia and worked with Russia's great composer Petr Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893) to create such famous ballets, as The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and Swan Lake. In the twentieth century, the Russian impresario Diaghilev (1872 - 1929) had a profound effect on the development of Russian ballet. In 1906 he, supported by the Imperial Russian rulers and high-society circles of France, organized the Russian Seasons - annual guest performances of Russian artists in Paris. He introduced Russian ballet to Europe by bringing his troupe of musicians, dancers, designers, and choreographers to Paris, including top dancers Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky. He attracted well-known artists and designers such as Leon Bakst, Alexandre Benois, Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov, and Pablo Picasso to name just a few. Diaghilev's Russian ballets include The Firebird and Petrouchka. With new multifaceted productions the Ballets Russes created a sensation in Paris, wich had broadened the theatrical experience of the West, and would echo in the art world, from music and dance to fashion and design. Ballet has dramatically changed since that time, however the last year sumptuous celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Ballets Russes is a testimony to the fact that the world of dance is still living under their influence.

In Russia ballet training has been developed into a military-like system, with the rules for ballet dancers to be followed with indisputable exactness. Russian ballet experts were extremely conservative and guarded its traditions fiercely which continues to this day.

Linguistic notes

You don’t have to be a ballet connoisseur to envision a particular move when you hear in порт де бра ‘port de bras’, на пуанты ‘en pointe’, пируэт ‘pirouette’ па-де-дë ‘pas de deux’, фуэте ‘fouetté’, or кордебалет ‘corps de ballet’. This terminology is rarely used in English, but in Russian is associated with the ubiquitous use of French vocabulary for classical ballet. Moreover, these terms can help you as a casual reader of Russian media, as these loan words are not only restricted to describe positions and steps of ballerinas. In other words, for ballet dancers these are action commands, and to a baseball fan or a lobbyist they’re seen as labels for the movements.

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