Jordan College of the Arts
Department of Dance

The Ballet Russe Scenery Collection Of the Butler Ballet

A pictorial exhibit of famous ballet drops gathered by Stephan Laurent

About the Collection

Mr. V

The Butler Ballet in Indianapolis, IN, owns a very valuable collection of scenery and costumes coming from the famed Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. This collection was accumulated over the span of several years during the mid-sixties through the diligence of the late George Verdak, himself a former dancer with the Ballet Russe, who for many years was a most influential member of the dance faculty at Butler University. "Mr. V"., as he was fondly called by those who knew him, later left Butler to found the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre.

In the Summer of 1997, through the support of the Dean of the Jordan College of the Arts, a major three-week effort involving the management and staff of Clowes Memorial Hall, Stephan Laurent, and some wonderful volunteers from IATSE local 30 members and from the student body at JCA, resulted in sorting through the collection drop by drop, hanging each piece on stage, identifying and photographing them, re-tagging as necessary, and finally transporting them into a brand new, air-conditioned storage facility recently allocated by the university to the Butler Ballet.

BRMC Act Curt Title

After that came the long travail of scanning each photograph, and in some cases reconstructing different shots into one composite image - for often one piece belonging to a set would appear and be hung one day, while the corresponding backdrop would only emerge from the huge pile of sets a week later. Then came the research work - identifying choreographer, composer, and designer for each ballet, as well as a synopsis of the libretto if applicable.

Many of the sets are still in excellent condition and continue to be used on a regular basis in Butler Ballet productions. Others, unfortunately, have greatly suffered from the vicissitudes of poor storage conditions or have simply faded to nothingness. In rare occasions, the sets are complete; in many other instances, they are only partial. In all cases, only the soft scenery (backdrops, cut drops, legs and borders) are in our possession; any hard scenery accompanying the soft goods have been lost.

This site provides access to many photographs of the scenery collection, with brief historical references about each piece. This pictorial exhibit of famous ballet drops is provided courtesy of Stephan Laurent, Professor, Butler University Department of Dance.