La Danse Corps et Graphies - Des tour[ ]né[es] du ballet Parade -Troisième numéro

"...Mon thème ne compte pas et seuls comptent la danse que j'inventai auprès de Léonide Massine et le bloc de l'entreprise."
Jean Cocteau(1)

En juin 1923, Parade remonte sur la Scène du Théâtre de La Gaîté-Lyrique, "orchestré" une dernière fois par Jean Cocteau.

[Quelques] Parade[s] du Manager Français

Le librettiste salue, en 1939, la production des Ballets Weidt - dits Ballets 38 -. : avec une vingtaine d'années de recul, il présente le balllet dans le programme ; il "se place" dans les coulisses du "travail" des danseurs, touché par le "prodige" de la Parade emmenée par leur "Manager".

Parade des Ballets 38

Parade des Ballets 38
Textes et dessins [illustrations] de Jean Cocteau pour les Ballets 38 - 1939


Lorsque je montai, avec Picasso et Erik Satie, Parade, en 1917, pour Serge de Diaghilev, il s'agissait de changer le Style de la danse. Le Style était décoratif. Parade le contredisait et haussait le réalisme jusqu'à la danse. C'était en quelque sorte le plus vrai que le vrai, dont j'ai fait ma méthode, sous la forme chorégraphique.

Parade fut un scandale en 1917 et, à la reprise un triomphe. Que s'était-il passé ? Entre-temps, la mode avait agi et nos imitateurs éclairaient l'œuvre.

En 1939, Weidt (Ballets 38) donne de Parade une version neuve où je ne joue aucun rôle. En effet, mon thème ne compte pas et seuls comptent la danse que j'inventai auprès de Léonide Massine et le bloc de l'entreprise.

Chez Weidt se passe un prodige. Cet apôtre du rythme suscite des danseurs. Un jeune homme, une jeune fille qui travaillaient de leurs mains et qui ne dansaient pas la veille se mettent à danser et exécutent des exercices d'acrobate. A peine le travail autorise-t-il le repos que les élèves de Weidt se précipitent et le cherchent dans la danse. Ce travail les délivre et cesse d'être un travail. Ecrasés de fatigue ils se détendent et s'épuisent par amour.

Je ne connais rien de plus noble, de plus jeune, de plus extraordinaire que cette petite troupe qui saute et tourne et trépigne les rêves qu'elle devrait demander au sommeil.

Le "Manager", de même s'accordera à la version de [la] Parade des Ballets Modernes de Paris, en 1959...

Parade des Ballets Modernes de Paris
Textes et dessins [illustrations] de Jean Cocteau pour les Ballets Modernes de Paris - 1959

Parade of The Américan Manager

En 1973, Léonide Massine fera à son tour une nouvelle mise en scène du ballet pour le Joffrey Ballet de New York.

The Joffrey Ballet's Parade
Affiche de spectacle du Joffrey Ballet - 1973


March 18, 1973

THIS Thursday, the City Center Joffrey Ballet will present the first American performance of “Parade,” a 56-year-old ballet whose reputation as the landmark modernist ballet rests primarily upon the reputation of its creators: Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Erik Satie and Léonide Massine. Given its premiere in Paris on May 18, 1917, it was unquestionably a milestone in the history of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The idea that it was also a milestone in the entire history of ballet relies more upon legend than evidence. Dropped from the Diaghilev repertory after 1926, “Parade” was revived only as late as the 1960's—by Maurice Mart in Brussels in 1962 and in Toulouse, France, in 1966.

The risk of reproducing a production whose avantgarde sensational value disappeared after its own premiere, is not lost upon Robert Joffrey. Yet his reason for staging “Parade” is utterly disarming to the balletomane: “It's one of those things everyone talks about but has never seen.”


Sometimes called the first Cubist ballet, “Parade” was one of the most famous collaborations in the theater. It might even be argued that it had a greater effect upon the lives of its creators than upon the realm of ballet itself. “Parade” established Picasso beyond the artistic avantgarde and its admirers. It marked his debut in stage design, led to his further work in the theater and, through his association with the Ballets Russes, influenced his art outside the theater. For Satie, “Parade” signified the wider public recognition that had, until then, eluded him. In the young Massine's case, “Parade” was public confirmation that he had inherited the mantle of Fokine and Nijinsky as Diaghilev's chief choreographer.

But it was for Cocteau, the originator of “Parade,” that the ballet was most important. As his first publicized maces de scandale, it set the seal on his reputation as the chronic enfant terrible of French arts and letters. “Parade” was a self-advertisement for the men who created it.

There was also a fifth collaborator—Diaghilev. No production of the Ballets Russes could proceed without his artistic direction. It has been traditionally held that “Parade” marked a crucial development for his company: It ushered in his “international” period, as opposed to the earlier Russian era, a new phase whose modernism would hold sway over the esthetic of the past. In less favorable terms, “Parade” referred to a phase in which Diaghilev's search for novelty would lead him to follow trends outside ballet rather than (as he did in 1909) to set them.

“Parade,” based on new ideas in art rather than dance, promoted a new conception of ballet. Its mood was intimate, not spectacular. Its action apeared simple. Its subject was related to contemporary life, not the past, myth or folklore. A first glimpse proved deceptive. Picasso's front curtain—now in Paris's Museum of Modern Art—depicted a charming, naturalistic moment of relaxation among circus performers. But Cubism made its stage debut with Picasso's backdrop and the 10-foot constructions in which he encased two dancers. One, the American Manager, bore the shape of a skyscraper. The collage encasing the French Manager suggested evening dress and trees. These were the two costumes responsible for the ballet's Cubist label, although Cubist ideas were present on another level in the music, choreography and libretto.

“Parade” had no extensive plot but it had an anecdote. The scene is a street fair in Paris. The managers and a horse, portrayed by two men, act as barkers at a sideshow or “parade.” A Chinese con juror, two acrobats and The Little American Girl, dressed in a middy, join them in a series of solos in an attempt to entice an imaginary public to the show. Their efforts are defeated.


If “Parade” disturbed critics and the public of 1917,1t was because its, apparent simplicity was interpreted as triviality. Yet the whole import of “Parade” lay in its “rehabilitation of the commonplace,” a phrase coined by Cocteau as neatly as he had borrowed its concept from the Cubists. For while Cocteau originated “Parade” and enlisted first Satie's and then Picasso's collaboration (Massine was added by Diaghilev), Picasso is now credited with the major influence on the final product.

“Parade” was, in fact, a manifesto whose contents were already known (Cubism was 10 years old). None of its elements was completely new., Yet it summed up the modernist direction—“the New Spirit,” as the poet, Guillaume Appollinaire, called it in a program note—and telegraphed it to an audience.

The chief theatrical novelty was the ballet's treatment of the “real.” Cocteau subtitled “Parade” a “realist ballet,” meaning the opposite of naturalistic. The less naturalistic an object looked in a Cubist painting or collage, the more information was conveyed about it. That is, it became “more real than real” — terms that Cocteau applied as well to “Parade”.

“Parade” was not naturalistic. But it drew upon elements from real, daily life that, in their fragmented form, relayed more about life in 1917 than would have a ballet constructed in sequential manner with traditional means. This contemporary quality runs through all of “Parade's” ingredients: Satie's anti-Impressionist score incorporated ragtime and music-hall elements on this eve of the Jazz Age; Cocteau devised accompanying sound effects—typewriter, motors, sirens—as the aural equivalents of the real objects (newspaper scraps, cloth) that. Cubists inserted into their collages.

Massine's choreography was nonclassical: The American Girl walked like Charlie Chaplin and mimed scenes from the movies—the medium through which Americans first became familiar to Europeans. Her number included all the American myths that were real to Europeans in 1917.

The most striking innovation was Picasso's use of the Managers as moving decor which also embodied a satire against contemporary commercialism and vulgarity.

How realistic “Parade” actually was can be seen in its reflection and proclamation of the period in which it was created. It is doubtful that anyone looking at it today will think that it was created in 1973. Lincoln Kirstein, in his book, “Dance: A Short History,” provided a sharp analysis of “Parade”: “In its love and loathing of the immediacy of the passing moment, ‘Parade’ anticipated the newsreel.”

Yet by introducing the idea that modern life, expressed in a modernist idiom, was a suitable subject for ballet, “Parade” itself could not hope to survive. Concerned with 1917, will it appear dated in 1973? Kirstein stated: “Indeed, it was one of the first victims of the very school it launched—the cult of the contemporaneous.”

The sole controversy surrounding “Parade” today concerns the degree of controversy that did or did not surround its premiere in 1917. Cocteau, anxious to create his own “Sacre du Printemps” scandal, upheld the impression that the premiere of “Parade” caused an uproar.

Yet Massine has recently written: “The audience appreciated the novelty of the theme, the wit of Satie's music and the Cubist setting and costumes. They seemed to find the whole ballet entertaining.” Lydia Sokolova, who later danced The American Girl, noted: “The public always seemed to be most enthusiastic and so was our company.”

Not all the claims made for “Parade” can be sustained. It is difficult to believe Massine was the first to break with the classical ballet idiom if one takes into account Nijinskyis experiments in “Jeux” and “Le Sacre du Printemps” in 1913. “Jeux,” not “Parade,” may also be called the first ballet with a contemporary theme. And since Diaghilev had already commissioned scores from Debussy, Ravel and Richard Strauss before 1917, “Parade” confirmed rather than initiated his move away from Russian to Western European composers.

Clive Barnes writes on Dance on Page 28. Did Diaghilev need Picasso and “Parade” to push him into modernism? As a Russian, Diaghilev was familiar with the work of the first Russian Cubo-Futurists and, by 1914, he already had two leading Russian modernist painters, Natalia Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, in his employ. Larionov's Rayonnist Manifesto of 1913 even foreshadows the stream of images Cocteau jotted down three years later in his notes for “Parade.” Larionov wrote: “We declare: The genius of our days to be trousers, jackets, shoes, tramways, buses, aeroplanes, railways, magnificent ships...” In 1916, Cocteau envisaged the character of The American Girl in the following terms: “The Titanic—Nearer My God to Thee—elevators —the sirens of Boulogne—submarine cables—ship to shore cables—Brest—tar-varnish—steamship apparatus—the New York Herald—dynamos—airplanes...”

Every ballet today that uses contemporary themes owes something to “Parade.” Yet because it subordinated dance to décor and literary elthents, it missed out on the real revolution in 20th-century ballet—the rise of choreography as an independent art.

In The New York Times - March 18, 1973, Page 150

The Joffrey Ballet's Parade


April 8, 1973

THE big surprise of the ballet season so far has been the success of the old Diaghilev work, “Parade,” which the Joffrey Ballet gave at the end of their spring season at the City Center 55th Street Theater. Although it is tragic to think of the future of the Jaffrey Ballet being in jeopardy, it is certainly in unusually good performing condition, and with Twyla Tharp's “Deuce Coupe” (the runaway hit of the season), Eliot Feld's “Jive” and finally ‘Parade,” the company added substantially to its repertory.

But “Parade” undeniably was the surprise. The ballet was the first balletic brainchild of Jean Cocteau, and a collaboration between Cocteau, who devised the theme, Erik Satie, who was responsible for the music, Pablo Picasso, who was here making his debut as a theatrical designer, and the young choreographer Léonide Massine.

The ballet was premiered in 1917 and remained, somewhat desultorily, in the repertory until 1926. Because of its collaborators and the nature of their collaboration—it introduced cubism into the theater — the work has always had a respectable place as a curiosity of ballet history. But there was never the speculation about it as there was about, say, Nijinsky's original “Le Sacre du Printemps.” And what gave Joffrey the idea to resuscitate it is anyone's guess. Because it was there, I suppose. Working in New York with the veteran Massine, he must one day have chatted about “Parade” and decided to take a chance on it.

Cocteau's theme is slender, a peg upon which the work can be hung. It shows traveling circus, or rather the outside of a traveling circus. Three managers use their artists as an inducement to get the crowd into the show. They fail. It is a simple divertissement, but one given with the utmost style, and one completely right for its period. It is clear from Douglas Cooper's invaluable book “Picasso Theater” that once the project for “Parade” really got under way it was Picasso who dominated it.

There were to be two worlds of reality, the managers and the real people the group of circus performers. At this level, it might be thought that the managers represent the forces of big business, publicity and that kind of thing, while the performers are artists or just simply people. But the essential thing is the two worlds of visual reality — with the fantasticated cubist structures which are the costumes of the managers (surely the most bizarre and possibly the most famous costumes ever seen on stage) and the basically naturalistic performers.

Two kinds of reality are also to be found in Erik Satie's music, which varies sparse and tonal post-Debussy style with natural sounds (typewriters, ships’ sirens and the like) that anticipate the musique concrete of some 30 years later.

Massine's choreography is, particularly considering the young man's comparative inexperience, rather effective. It is a ballet where choreography obviously takes second place to spectacle, but certainly there are many signs in the choreography of the mature Massine.

The most impressive choreographic realization is that for the Chinese Conjurer, which, with its staccato attack and rhythmic bounce, foresaw so many of those famous Massine solos right up to the Barman in “Union Pacific,” the Barber in “Mam'zelle Angot” or even Donald in “Donald of the Burthens.” If this choreography was to become typical of the future Massine, other seminal hints can also be seen—the Little American Girl in “Parade” offers us a taste of “La Boutique Fantasque,” while the Two Acrobats, with their modernistic classicism, suggest the symphonic ballets, such as “Les Presages” and “Choreartium,” to come nearly 20 years later.

The work has been lovingly staged. Scenically this is a joy—the front curtain and scenery have been realized by Edward Burbridge, the performers’ costumes by Willa Kim and cubist construction by Kermit Love—and among the innumerable authorities consulted and cited, the program expresses special thanks to Mr. Cooper himself. Jaffrey has a way with these reconstructions, but nothing has been done with such eclat as this “Parade.”

Why does “Parade” seem especially interesting and especially pleasing to New York ballet audiences at this particular juncture? I would suggest it is simply because it brings a glamour to the ballet that is not often found in native companies. American dance — partly through policy, partly through poverty and partly through whim — has neglected the decorative aspect of ballet. And when we see a Picasso dominating the stage in this way the sheer surprise of it gives our spirits a special lift. We see great painters and sculptors on our stages far too rarely.


In The New York Times - April 8, 1973, Page 172

“Parade” and The Joffrey Ballet

Rideau de Parade - Picasso Exhibition at The Ttate Ggallery, Londres, 1960

1. In le Programme de Parade par les Ballets Weidt, dits Ballets 38 - 1939.

Aurélie Dauvin © Corps et Graphies

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