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The Ballet Russe Scenery Collection of the Butler Ballet

A pictorial exhibit of famous ballet drops gathered by Stephan Laurent

About the Collection

George VerdakThe 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.

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This site provides access to many photographs of the scenery collection, with brief historical references about each piece.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.

Ballet Russe Drops Collection 

Main Drops

7th Symphony

7th Symphony (Leonide Massine / Beethoven)
Decor by Christian Berard
View Drops

Bacchanale

Bacchanale (Leonide Massine / Richard Wagner)
Decor by Salvador Dali
View Drops

Le Beau Danube

Le Beau Danube (Leonide Massine / Strauss)
Decor by Etienne de Beaumont
View Drops

Bogatyri (Leonide Massine / Borodin)
Decor by Natalia Goncharova
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Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (George Balanchine / Richard Strauss)
Decor by Eugene Berman
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Capriccio Espagnol (Leonide Massine / Rimsky-Korsakov)
Decor by Mariano Andreu
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Coppelia (Nicholas Sergeyev after Merante / Delibes)
Decor by Pierre Roy
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Devil's Holiday (Frederick Ashton / Paganini arr. by Tommasini)
Decor by Eugene Berman
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Etude (Bronislava Nijinska/J.S. Bach)
Decor by Alexander Borowski
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Ghost Town (Marc Platoff / R. Rodgers)
Decor by Raoul Pene du Bois
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Giselle (Serge Lifar, after Coralli / Adam)
Decor by Alexander Benois
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Harlequinade (Boris Romanov / Drigo)
Decor by Rolf Gerard
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Harold in Italy (Leonide Massine / Berlioz)
Decor by Bernard Lamotte
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Magic Swan (Alexandra Fedorova / Tchaikovsky)
Decor by Eugene B. Dunkel
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The Mikado (Antonia Cabos / Sullivan)
Decor by Bernard Lamotte
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The Nutcracker (Alexandra Fedorova, after Ivanov / Tchaikovsky)
Decor by Alexander Benois
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Petrushka (Michel Fokine / Stravinsky)
Decor by Alexander Benois
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Prince Igor (Michel Fokine / Borodin)
Decor by C. Korovine
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Quelques Fleurs (Ruthanna Boris / Auber)
Decor by Robert Davison
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Raymonda (Alexandra Danilova & George Balanchine, after Petipa / Glazunov)
Decor by Alexander Benois
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The Red Poppy (Igor Schwezoff / Gliere)
Decor by Boris Aronson
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Rouge et Noir (Leonide Massine / Shostakovich)
Decor by Henri Matisse
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Saratoga (Leonide Massine / Jaromir Weinberger)
Decor by Oliver Smith
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Scheherazade (Michel Fokine / Rimsky-Korsakov)
Decor by Leon Bakst
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Swan Lake (Alexandra Fedorova after Ivanov / Tchaikovsky)
Decor by Alexander Benois
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Virginia Sampler (Valerie Bettis / Leo Smit)
Decor by Charles Elson
View Drops

 

 

Additional Drops

Karl Kaufman's Cinderella
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A Dickens Fantasy
View Drop

Heddy Green
View Drop

The Mohicans
View Drop

George Verdak's Spalicek
View Drop

 

 

Unidentified Drops in the Collection

Unknown cityscape
View Drop

Unknown Black & White set (3 pieces)
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Unknown Castle drop (small faded)
View Drop

Unknown cut drop, attributed to Karl Kaufman
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Unknown Nutcracker or Wizard of Oz backdrop
View Drop

Unidentified Red Swag Portal
View Drop

Backdrop for an unidentified ballet attributed to Ruth Page
View Drop

   

 

Ballet Russe Bibliography

Anderson, Jack - The One and Only: The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo . New York: Dance Horizons, 1981.

Balanchine, George - Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets, ed. Francis Mason. Garden City:Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1954.

Kirstein, Lincoln - Movement and Metaphor. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970.

Koegler, Horst - The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Dance. London: Oxford University Press, 1977.

Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo [Souvenir Book], Sergei Denham, Director - Season 1946-47. New York: Concert Program Magazines, 1946.

Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo [Souvenir Book], Sergei Denham, Director - Season 1949-50. New York: Longacre Press, 1949.

Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo [Souvenir Book], Sergei Denham, Director - Season 1956-57. New York: Gallery Press, 1956.

Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo [Souvenir Book], Sergei Denham, Director - Season 1957-58. New York: Gallery Press, 1957.

Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo [Souvenir Book], Sergei Denham, Director - Season 1961-62. New York: Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, 1961.