"Ballet Russes" picks up the story after Diaghilev's death in 1929 and traces the story of two of their greatest choreographers -- George Balanchine and Leonide Massine -- and how artistic differences split the company into two touring ensembles. There is remarkable period footage of some of the principal ballerinas such as Irina Baronova and Tatiana Riabouchinska. When the surviving dancers reunite in New Orleans in 2000, they're close to a century old -- yet they're still vibrant and vivid. "Ballet Russes" is a worthy testament to their endurance. Narrated by Marion Seldes. Featuring Dame Alicia Markova, Irina Baronova, Yvonne Chouteau and Raven Wilkinson. Directed by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine. Written by Dan Geller, Dayna Goldfine, Celeste Schaefer Snyder and Gary Weinberg. Produced by Robert Hawk and Douglas Blair Turnbaugh. A Zeitgeist release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 120 min
When Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev premiered the fabled Ballet Russes dance company in Paris in 1909, they transformed the art of ballet from the divertissement of the music hall into a radical new art form. Dancers soon infused a modernist sensibility where they moved in complex sensual rhythms. "Ballet Russes," a documentary that traces the long history of the company (they donned their slippers for the last time in 1962), is nowhere near as dynamic as its subject, but it is a deeply affectionate and informative study of some of the greatest ballet dancers who ever pirouetted across a stage.