The Ballets Russes Collection traces the history of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and its various offshoots, including
de Basil and Blum's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, the Original Ballet Russe, and Massine and Denham's Ballets Russes de Monte
Carlo. Each variation of the company is well-documented through programs, press reviews, publicity, and photos.
The origins of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo can be traced back to 1909, when Serge Diaghilev signed a contract with the
Theatre Chatelet in Paris to present a Russian ballet season. Drawing from the Russian Imperial Theater, he assembled a company
which included Michel Fokine, Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Vera Karalli, Ida Rubinstein, Vaslav Nijinsky, Adolph Bolm,
Mikhail Mordkin, and Theodore Kosloff. After two successful seasons in Paris in 1909 and 1910, Diaghilev formed the group
into a permanent company. Between 1911 and Diaghilev's death in 1929, the company presented premiers of many new ballets by
Vaslav Njinsky, Michel Fokine and Leonide Massine. Diaghilev's company gave a final performance on July 26, 1929 at Covent
Garden Theater in London. After Diaghilev's death, two organizations emerged; Rene Blum formed the Ballet de l'Opera at Monte
Carlo and Col. Wassily de Basil and Prince Zeretelli collaborated on the Opera Russe in Paris. Eventually, Blum and Basil
merged these groups into one company based in Monte Carlo. The two hired George Balanchine and Leonide Massine as choreographers
and many of the finest Russian dancers, including Irina Baronova, Tamara Toumanova, and Tatiana Riabouchinska. Known as the
Rene Blum and Col. de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, the company presented ballets from the Diaghilev repertoire and
new ballets by Massine and Balanchine. Massine then left to join Blum to form a ballet company for the Monte Carlo Opera.
The two companies attempted a merger but ultimately permanently separated. De Basil's company changed its name to Educational
Ballets, Ltd. and then later to the Original Ballet Russe. After some unsuccessful seasons, the Original Ballet Russe gave
its last performance in 1948. Blum and Massine's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo experienced greater success and performed throughout
the world during the 1940s and 1950s.
Sergei Denham assumed directorship of the company in 1948 and oversaw successful U.S. tours between 1949 and 1950. After 1950,
the company continued to make sporadic tours of the United States until 1962, when it gave its last public performance.