Reaktion £17.95 (256pp) £16.15 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Ballets Russes Style, By Mary E Davis
Friday 17 December 2010
The "legendary command" of the Ballets Russes impresario was simply: "Astonish me!" A century on from its Paris debut, Diaghilev's dancers continue to do that in this handsome book.
Ballerina Natacha Trouhanova flashes a nipple in a 1909 magazine photo-spread. Despite a "feminising costume of gold harem pants fixed by ropes of pearls to a jewelled bandeau top", Nijinsky's performance in the 1910 Scheherazade was "sex incarnate".
It was for a Ballets Russe programme that Apollinaire coined the term "sur-realisme" to describe its transcendence of 19th-century realism.
Mary E Davis conveys the electric excitement from a collection of talents – music by Stravinsky, sets by Picasso, costumes by Bakst – that has never been equalled.
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