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The Golden Age of the Ballet Russes

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This course examines the history of the Ballets Russes (The Russian Ballets) from its grassroots association with the Russian cultural movement World of Art, through to the inspiring collaborations between choreographers, composers, artists, designers and dancers (including Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Benois, Bakst, Roerich, Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev, Milhaud, Poulenc and Picasso).

The course traces key moments in the history of the company, and analyses artistic collaborations alongside the reception of key works in order to illustrate the ideological and aesthetic objectives of the group and the impact they had on the early-twentieth century dance, music and art.

The course syllabus will cover the following topics:

  • The history of the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929
  • Russian cultural movement Mir iskusstva (World of Art)
  • Collaborations between choreographers, composers, artists, designers and dancers (including Sergei Diaghilev, Alexandre Benois, Léon Bakst, Vaslav Nijinsky, Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Nicholas Roerich, Natalia Goncharova, and Pablo Picasso).
  • Case studies of seminal works, such as Stravinsky’s The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of Spring, Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, Debussy’s Jeux, Prokofiev’s Chout, Poulenc’s Les Biches, and Milhaud’s Le Train Bleu.

Learning and teaching

The course will be taught over ten two-hour sessions, delivered on a weekly basis. This will involve:

  • Tutor-led sessions: this forms the bulk of the teaching provision for the module. In these sessions, basic information will be delivered to the students utilising mediums such as PowerPoint, audio examples, aural analysis, YouTube examples and handouts where necessary.
  • Student-led activities and class discussion.
  • Online provision: to help with the use of online resources, relevant web links will be made available through Learning Central. PowerPoint and handouts from the weekly sessions will also be made available.

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

It goes without saying that students' understanding of the music studied in a course is usually considerably enhanced if they read and write about it. You will not have a formal examination but you will be asked to produce some written work. This need not be an essay: it can take the form of a course journal, portfolio, presentation, or questionnaire.

Our assessments are flexible to suit the course and the student. The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

  • Jane Pritchard and Geoffrey Marsh (eds), Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes: 1909-1929 (V&A Publishing, 2010)
  • Davinia Caddy, The Ballets Russes and Beyond: Music and Dance in Belle-Époque Paris (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

The tutor will also recommend specific audio and/or DVD recordings and documentaries.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.


21-23 Senghennydd Road
CF24 4AG