Dancing in a new direction

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  January 14, 2010

The conference
Academic conferences tend to be, well, academic, but "The Spirit of Diaghilev" wasn't. Lynn Garafola in her keynote address anticipated two themes that would emerge: the pervasive influence of the Ballets Russes on the future of dance, and Diaghilev's creation of an art "infused with queer sexuality and spotlighting men." De Valois established the Royal Ballet, Lifar headed the Paris Opera Ballet, and Balanchine created New York City Ballet — and those institutions in turn have influenced the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Sacre reconstructor Millicent Hodson argued that choreography as we know it was born with the Ballets Russes. In some sense, modern dance as we know it was born with the Ballets Russes; with its blunt gestures and pigeon-toed steps, its anti–ballet æsthetic, Nijinsky's Sacre made anything seem possible.

As for Diaghilev's homosexuality, you wouldn't think that would be news; yet when Garafola made her offhand remark, there was a surprised whisper of "Really?" behind me. Noting the relative lack of discourse about Diaghilev's private life, biographer Sjeng Scheijen asked everyone to consider his role in the acceptance of homosexuality in Europe, not to mention the role of homosexuality in his art. Those are subjects that deserve exploration, and so are the ballets that Phoenix critic Marcia Siegel spotlighted in her segment on historical reconstruction, works like Bronislava Nijinska's Le Train Bleu and Balanchine's La Chatte, dances that still look new.

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Related: 2009: The year in dance, Documentary Man, Reality riffs, More more >
  Topics: Dance , Culture and Lifestyle, New England Conservatory of Music, Bronislava Nijinska,  More more >
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