Les Ballets Suédois

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Company founded in 1920 in Paris by Rolf de Maré, a Swedish art patron and amateur ethnographer, who hoped to emulate the success of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The repertoire went to even greater extremes of experiment in style and subject matter, embracing African dance, Muslim traditions, roller-skating, feminism, and abstract art. The sole choreographer throughout the five years of its existence was the company's star performer Jean Börlin, who had been a dancer with the Royal Swedish Ballet in Stockholm. Börlin's choreography was influenced by the Diaghilev repertoire, although he also created dances based on Swedish folklore and the folklore of other, non-European cultures. Like the Diaghilev troupe, the company was noted for its collaborations with avant-garde composers and painters, and Börlin often turned to poets like Claudel and Cocteau for his librettos. L'Homme et son désir placed its protagonist in a tropical rainforest; La Création du monde, subtitled A Negro-Jazz Ballet, was a marriage of African creation myths and American jazz; Relâche was a Dadaist multi-media spectacle which featured an appearance by Man Ray and a ‘cinematographic entr'acte’ which stands alone as a work of avant-garde cinema. The company made its debut on 25 Oct. 1920 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and toured extensively in Europe and the US until it was disbanded in 1925. Most of its dancers came from Scandinavia. The company was particularly associated with a group of composers known as Les Six; the score for Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (1921) was written by five of them (Auric, Milhaud, Poulenc, Tailleferre, and Honegger), and has the distinction of being the only orchestral work produced collectively by Les Six. Painters who collaborated with the company included Bonnard, Léger, and de Chirico. Unlike the Diaghilev repertoire, very few of the Ballets Suédois works have survived. In 1998 the Royal Swedish Ballet staged an evening of reconstructed works from the Ballets Suédois repertoire, including Skating Rink (originally reconstructed for the Zurich Ballet) and Within the Quota. Among Börlin's most important creations were Maison de fous, Le Tombeau de Couperin, El Greco (1920), L'Homme et son désir, Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel (1921), Skating Rink (1922), La Création du monde (1923), and La Jarre and Relâche (1924).

Subjects: Dance.

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