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MU4008: THE BALLETS RUSSES: MUSIC, ART AND MOVEMENT (2022-2023)

Last modified: 27 Oct 2022 17:50


Course Overview

Between 1909 and 1929, Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes staged a series of theatrical productions which combined music, movement and visual art in ways that were to have an unprecedented influence on every aspect of artistic life in western Europe and the Americas. Focusing on ten representative ballets, this course explores the creative collaborations between composers, choreographers, artists, dancers and musicians, including such key figures as Stravinsky, Debussy, Picasso, Chanel, Nijinsky and Massine. The course approaches the topic from interdisciplinary angles. 

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 4
Session First Sub Session Credit Points 30 credits (15 ECTS credits)
Campus Aberdeen Sustained Study No
Co-ordinators
  • Professor Chris Collins

What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either Programme Level 3 or Programme Level 4
  • Any Undergraduate Programme
  • Either Film And Visual Culture (FS) or Music (MU)

What other courses must be taken with this course?

None.

What courses cannot be taken with this course?

Are there a limited number of places available?

No

Course Description

This course explores the kaleidoscopic artistic activity of Ballets Russes over the twenty years of its existence from 1909. Under the inspired management of the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, this loosely-knit community of composers, choreographers, artists, dancers and musicians created a repertoire of ballets which changed the direction not only of dance, but of all of Western music, art, and popular culture. The company’s performances across western Europe and the Americas were attended by a cross-section of society, from retailers to royalty, and from pharmacists to philosophers. Always innovative, and often controversial, the Ballets Russes were received with popular acclaim and critical displeasure in equal measure – and one production was the cause of the most famous riot in theatrical history.

Primitivism, Fauvism, cubism, Dadaism, neoclassicism and ultra-modernism all entered the public consciousness through the activity of the Ballets Russes. The company launched the international careers of Igor Stravinsky, Manuel de Falla, Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel, Natalia Gontcharova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina, Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine. Other collaborators included Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Poulenc, Milhaud, Braque, Laurencin, Miró, Derain, Fokine and Rambert. 

This course investigates the history of the Ballets Russes from its origins in the exhibitions of Russian art staged by Serge Diaghilev in Paris in 1906, through to the troupe’s populist heyday in the technological and hedonistic world of the 1920s. It does this through the study of ten representative ballets, five of them with music by Stravinsky. These are:

– The Firebird (Stravinsky/Fokine/Bakst/Golovin/Gontcharova)

– Petrushka (Stravinsky/Fokine/Benois)

– The Rite of Spring (Stravinsky/Nijinsky/Roerich)

– Jeux (Debussy/Nijinsky/Bakst)

– Parade (Satie/Massine/Picasso)

– The Three-Cornered Hat (Falla/Massine/Picasso)

– Pulcinella (Stravinsky/Massine/Picasso)

– Les noces (Stravinsky/Nijinska/Gontcharova)

– Les biches (Poulenc/Nijinska/Laurencin)

– Le train bleu (Milhaud/Nijinska/Chanel/Picasso)

Most of the ballets will be viewed as video recordings in timetabled showings.

On this course, you will explore processes of creative collaboration between artists working in different media. You will investigate questions of artistic confection and authenticity, and will consider how the activity of the Ballets Russes was defined by the personal characteristics of its creators and audiences: a story in which gender, sexuality, politics and nationality all play a part. You will interrogate the meanings of ballet as a form of theatre, and will experience some of the finest artworks of the twentieth century.

The course is suitable for students of Music or Film & Visual Culture. Whatever your main subject, you will bring your own disciplinary expertise to the discussion. You do not need to be experienced in the study of both subjects to take this course.


Details for second half-session courses, including assessments, may be subject to change until 23 December 2022.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

  • 1 Film Screening during University weeks 8 - 12, 14 - 18
  • 1 Seminar during University weeks 8 - 12, 14 - 18

More Information about Week Numbers


Details for second half-session courses, including assessments, may be subject to change until 23 December 2022.

Summative Assessments

Essay

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 80
Assessment Weeks 18 Feedback Weeks 21

Look up Week Numbers

Feedback

A 4000-word essay on a question chosen from a list of at least 5 proposed by the course tutor in the first week of teaching. Feedback will be provided on MyAberdeen. 

Word Count 4000
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualUnderstandUnderstanding the historical importance of the Ballet Russes and its repertoire.
ProceduralAnalyseAnalysing collaborative creative processes across music, dance and visual art as evinced in the repertoire and activity of the Ballets Russes
ProceduralEvaluateEvaluating the roles of creators and audiences personal characteristics (nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) in their artistic contributions and interactions.
ProceduralEvaluateCritiquing the influence of the Ballets Russes across multiple art forms and cultural manifestations.
ReflectionCreateProducing eloquent and well-crafted contributions to scholarly debate on the Ballets Russes and their legacy.

Oral Presentation: Individual

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 20
Assessment Weeks 14 Feedback Weeks 17

Look up Week Numbers

Feedback

A 15-minute presentation on a topic of the student’s choice, arising out of the course topic. Presentations should not address specific topics or repertoire studied in detail during seminars, and so students are advised to consult with the course tutor when choosing a topic. 

Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualUnderstandUnderstanding the historical importance of the Ballet Russes and its repertoire.
ProceduralAnalyseAnalysing collaborative creative processes across music, dance and visual art as evinced in the repertoire and activity of the Ballets Russes
ReflectionCreateProducing eloquent and well-crafted contributions to scholarly debate on the Ballets Russes and their legacy.

Formative Assessment

There are no assessments for this course.

Resit Assessments

Essay

Assessment Type Summative Weighting 100
Assessment Weeks Feedback Weeks

Look up Week Numbers

Feedback Word Count 5000
Learning Outcomes
Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ConceptualUnderstandUnderstanding the historical importance of the Ballet Russes and its repertoire.
ProceduralAnalyseAnalysing collaborative creative processes across music, dance and visual art as evinced in the repertoire and activity of the Ballets Russes
ProceduralEvaluateEvaluating the roles of creators and audiences personal characteristics (nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) in their artistic contributions and interactions.
ProceduralEvaluateCritiquing the influence of the Ballets Russes across multiple art forms and cultural manifestations.
ReflectionCreateProducing eloquent and well-crafted contributions to scholarly debate on the Ballets Russes and their legacy.

Course Learning Outcomes

Knowledge LevelThinking SkillOutcome
ProceduralEvaluateCritiquing the influence of the Ballets Russes across multiple art forms and cultural manifestations.
ProceduralAnalyseAnalysing collaborative creative processes across music, dance and visual art as evinced in the repertoire and activity of the Ballets Russes
ProceduralEvaluateEvaluating the roles of creators and audiences personal characteristics (nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) in their artistic contributions and interactions.
ReflectionCreateProducing eloquent and well-crafted contributions to scholarly debate on the Ballets Russes and their legacy.
ConceptualUnderstandUnderstanding the historical importance of the Ballet Russes and its repertoire.

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