De Basil’s Ballets Russes has had an uncertain position in the history of twentieth-century dance. It has often been dismissed as nothing more than a hack company, put together by a fake Russian colonel with a flair for publicity who knew how to milk the Diaghilev legend for all it was worth. A new book by Vicente García-Márquez sets out to correct this view. Despite its dubious reputation, de Basil’s company, the author asserts, made contributions of real worth that are often overlooked in the wake of the scandals and intrigues that plagued it during its volatile career.

When Serge Diaghilev died in 1929, it seemed that the glorious era of Russian ballet had come to an end. The company that had brought Nijinsky, Pavlova, Bolm, and Karsavina to Paris, and had introduced the work of choreographers Fokine, Massine, and Balanchine, disbanded; the famous sets by Bakst,...


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