Coco Chanel and Ballets Russes

The early 1900s was the perfect backdrop for Gabrielle Chanel’s efforts to pioneer unrestrictive and liberating fashion for women. This fused with the world of dance, one which the designer would ultimately become involved in thanks to the societal circles she frequented.


The relationship between Coco Chanel and Ballets Russes is one that started by chance and then developed parallel her friendship with Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the renowned ballet company. She not only was a dear friend to the impresario but also one of his costume designers and a patron. To this day, Chanel continues their namesake’s ties with her love of dance as a patron of the Paris Opera Ballet and other distinguished famous ballet companies around the world.


The video below provides snapshots of historic insight into Gabrielle Chanel’s involvement with Ballets Russes and the other avant-garde artists of the time including Igor Stravinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Pablo Picasso.

Coco Chanel and Ballets Russes

coco chanel and ballets russes

Source: Chanel

Ballet Swan Arms Practice

One of the most iconic and beautiful movements in the classical canon are ballet swan arms during Swan Lake. It is an epitomical display of how ballet dancers use their port de bras (carriage of the arms) to express character, voice, and aesthetics.

The video below by Ernesto Galan for Boston Ballet demonstrates the how so that anyone can be a swan! Showing non-dancers practicing alongside a professional to an unexpected soundtrack is so charming, I challenge all of you to resist trying this yourself. 

Ballet Swan Arms Video

coco chanel and ballets russes

Vienna State Ballet: 2020 New Year’s Celebration

Every new year for me officially begins upon watching the annual concert given by the Vienna Philharmonic. 2020 is no different for me, but there are a couple of historic details to note, including the first time a Spanish choreographer has created the iconic new year’s pieces danced by the Vienna State Ballet. José Carlos Martinez, formerly the director of La Compañía Nacional de Danza of Spain, choreographed – in my very humble opinion – a couple of the most beautiful ballets ever performed for this event.

Although the entire concert is worthy of your time, here are the details if you’d like to skip straight to the dancing:

At 15:22-25:25
Music: Be Embraced, You Millions! by Johann Strauss II
Dancers: Natascha Mair + Denis Cherevychko, Nina Tonoli + Davide Dato, Madison Young + Robert Gabdulin

At 37:02-41:18
Music: Twelve Contredances by Ludwig van Beethoven
Dancers: Olga Esina + Jakob Feyferlik, Ketevan Papava + Roman Lazik

I wish you all a new year filled with love, laughter, and lots of dancing, and hope that perhaps watching this concert will become part of your tradition, too!

Vienna State Ballet w/ Vienna State Philharmonic

coco chanel and ballets russes

Alicia Alonso: Video of a Ballet Legend

It is a sad time for those of us who make the ballet world our home as classical ballerina Alicia Alonso now dances from up above.

The legendary founder of the National Ballet of Cuba died on October 17, 2019 in a hospital in her home country of Cuba at the age of 98. Alonso is a star amongst generations of ballet dancers, having made a name for herself around the world while dancing at Ballet Theatre (now, American Ballet Theatre) before returning home to Cuba to establish the country’s world famous company and school. For many Alicia Alonso is Giselle, a role that one cannot speak about without referencing her. Despite battling the operations and vision challenges that accompany having a detached retina, Alonso went on to have a career in ballet that well outlasted the predictions of her doctors. Her passion for the art will live on through her mark in history and in all who are inspired by her.

Homage to Alicia Alonso

coco chanel and ballets russes

Romeo and Juliet Film

Shakespeare’s most recognized tale of star-crossed lovers is coming to the big screen. At least in England. For one precious night only – December 16, 2019 – audiences can see Michael Nunn and William Trevitt’s Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words featuring The Royal Ballet dancers William Bracewell and Francesca Hayward dancing the title characters. Kenneth MacMillan’s beloved version of this literary and ballet classic, Romeo and Juliet,  will be set to an abridged (90-minute) version of Sergei Prokofiev’s original 1938 score recorded by the Orchestra of The Royal Opera House. This sounds like an overall sensory treat that I hope makes it to this side of the Atlantic.

Romeo and Juliet Film Trailer

coco chanel and ballets russes

Learn Ballet Pantomime

One of the most beautiful facets of a classical ballet is its use of pantomime to convey the narrative to the audience. As there is traditionally no verbal communication, body language – most specifically, the expressive use of heads and arms – is how ballet dancers speak with one another on the stage as well as how they tell the story to the viewers. Below, Boston Ballet’s Ballet Master Larissa Ponomarenko coaches Principal Dancers Viktorina Kapitonova and Patrick Yocum in some of the pantomime that takes place in Giselle.


Just as a ballet dancer’s feet articulate the steps, his/her hands are the eloquent words of a conversation. Some of the most common phrases are demonstrated in this video including “You are beautiful”, “I love you”, and “I swear”. This serves as a wonderful tool for young artists to mimic and then develop into their own “voice” as well as a useful guide for helping future ballet goers understand better what they are seeing on stage.

Boston Ballet Teaches us Ballet Pantomime

coco chanel and ballets russes

Force of Nature: Natalia Osipova Documentary

Natalia Osipova is a household name in the ballet community. The world has witnessed her journey from the Bolshoi Ballet to Mikhailovsky Theatre to the Royal Ballet, where the ballerina is currently in her fifth season. Lyndsey Winship from The Guardian interviews Osipova, discussing her partnerships on and off the stage as well as the Gerry Fox documentary that was just released last week. The film gives audiences an inside look into the life of Osipova at the Royal Ballet and delves into why the classical ballerina also embraces being a contemporary dancer.

Natalia Osipova Documentary Trailer

coco chanel and ballets russes

A Day in the Life of Isabella Boylston

Are you curious as to what a professional ballerina’s daily life consists of? Elise Finch from CBSN New York interviews American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer Isabella Boylston and provides us with insight into the habits and schedule of one of the world’s most prominent ballet dancers. Ms. Boylston chats a bit about her path from a small town in Idaho to the Big Apple as well as what she eats for breakfast. 

Isabella Boylston Interview

coco chanel and ballets russes

Miko Fogarty: A Ballerina’s Second Act

We all know of the young ballerina Miko Fogarty, star of First Position, the documentary about the Youth America Grand Prix. This film gave us insight into the competitive ballet circuit that she was such a prominent figure of for the majority of her childhood. From the age of nine until her acceptance into the Birmingham Royal Ballet in England at 17, Miko was one of the rising talents to watch as she consistently medaled for her performances on the stage. And she still is someone to keep an eye on, although now as a UC Berkeley integrative biology student. In this TEDxBerkeley talk, Ms. Fogarty opens up about some of the challenging times in her youth, as well as the positive influences that ballet has had on who she is now as she embarks on a new chapter of her life studying medicine.

Miko Fogarty's TED Talk

coco chanel and ballets russes