It’s been a summer of Les Ballets Russes for me. The National Gallery has a spectacular exhibit up of about original company (famed for the creation of Le Sacre du Printemps among much else.) If you are in, or near, DC it’s worth seeing. And if you are a performing arts history fan, it’s worth a special trip.
Trying to find more info on the that company, I stumbled upon Les Ballets Russes, a 2005 documentary, available on Netflix. Initially, I was disappointed as the doc picks up the story post-Diaghilev (he died in 1929 and the company survived, splitting into two at one point and providing work for, among others, a young George Balanchine.) But it turns out to be wonderful, particularly for candid, and poignant interviews with stars from the company of the 30s and 40s. The great Freddy Franklin is a standout; unusually, he was a Brit in among the Russians. He danced everything and with everybody, and was active in the dance world until his 90s. His death was just a few months back, in May 2013.
One of his best-loved roles was in the corny, exuberant Gaité Parisienne, made into a film by Warner Brothers in 1941 as “The Gay Parisian” (the title gives the then 90-year-old Franklin a giggle in the film). It’s dated, but a fun 20 minutes.