Curtain Up

January 25, 2009

Even now, 100 years after Serge Diaghilev astonished Paris with his first season of the Ballets Russes, the name Diaghilev calls up images of exoticism, opulence, and innovation. For most of us, though, these images are vague; we don’t really know what happened onstage when the Ballets Russes was the toast of Europe. And it’s confusing because there were so many post-Diaghilev companies that traversed North America with names like Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe. In “The Ballets Russes Revolution,” Deborah Jowitt brings the whole era alive for us. Diaghilev thrilled audiences with vivid ballets that were equally strong in choreography, music, and visual design—and he wasn’t afraid to be outrageous.


In a sidebar, Kathy Adam takes us to Salt Lake City, where Ballet West is one of many companies planning to celebrate the Ballets Russes Centennial. Our cover subject, Kate Crews, reveals that dancing the role of The Hostess in Nijinska’s Les Biches (1924) is way harder than it looks. We were lucky to have Ballet West’s new artistic director, Adam Sklute, aboard at the cover shoot to help with the stylization of Nijinska’s glamorous flapper character.


Another kind of exoticism comes to us from associate editor Emily Macel’s travels to China around the time of the Olympics. Emily’s observations and interviews with dancers in Beijing make us realize that, although the political landscape is so different from ours, the desire of dancers to express themselves sounds familiar.


We have a chock-full Auditions Guide, with good, solid advice from artistic directors and casting directors. This year my favorite story is “Brush It Off, Bring It On,” about a young dancer who had her heart set on dancing with BalletMet Columbus, didn’t make the cut, went to a smaller company, and seven years later was finally accepted by BalletMet. Talk about patience!


On a sad note, I want to say a word about our longtime contributor Clive Barnes, who died in November. His dedication to dance and Dance Magazine knew no bounds. I loved editing Clive’s “Attitudes” column because he always had something definite to say, and said it with wit and style. His writing had the ring of clarity, the delight of clever repartee, and—that rare quality—a real sense of freedom. Turn to our final “Attitudes” column to read tributes from others in the dance community. 



Photo by Matthew Karas