The great Russian choreographer Leonide Massine was the most important figure in modernist ballet in the 1930s, known for works such as Gaite Parisienne and The Three-Cornered Hat. His versatility and scope made his choreography the most representative of the century. Whatever period he portrayed, his style flowed freely and unselfconsciously. His character ballets dealt not with stereotypes but individuals, and his symphonic ballets proved how great music could be employed without demeaning it. Like his mentor Diaghilev, he strove to bring music, painting, and poetry to his ballets. Massine was responsible for the first abstract ballet and the first true fusions of ballet and modern dance. This work provides a biography of Massine and a detailed analysis of his major ballets, including those for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and American Ballet Theatre. The work integrates biographical study with an examination of Massine's works from an array of perspectives.
By examining the music and composers, set design, and literary sources, it places the work in the larger context of the dance, opera, major visual art movements, literature, and theater of the period. Analyses of ballets include synopses, scenery and costumes, music, choreography, critical survey, and summary. The work concludes with an epilogue summarizing Massine's impact on the development of ballet in the twentieth century, and includes both informal and performance photographs.