By Alice Askins, Education Coordinator at Rose Hill Mansion
Scheherezade and the Golden Slave from the Ballets Russes production of Scheherezade.
During the 1910s and 20s the dance world was in ferment. In 1909 the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev brought a new kind of ballet to Europe and the
United States with the debut of the Ballets Russes. The troupe was noted for the high standard of
its dancers, who were classically trained at the great Imperial schools in Paris Moscow and .
Their superior dancing enthralled St. Petersburg
Diaghilev developed a more complicated form of ballet, with showy and exotic elements intended to expand its appeal. He liked to tell his artists, “Astonish me.” He also encouraged exciting artistic collaborations among gifted young choreographers, composers, designers, and dancers. Works were commissioned from Stravinsky, Debussy, Picasso, Matisse, and Coco Chanel.
|Set for Scheherezade created by artist Leon Bakst|
Many of Diaghilev’s dancers went on to found ballet traditions in the
George Balanchine, for example, created dances for the New York City
Ballet. Others took the dance experience
to smaller cities with smaller troupes.
In 1921, one such company came to . The Daily
Times reported on May 31, 1921: Geneva
BALLET RUSSE AT SMITH OPERA HOUSE
The Ballet Russe will be seen for the first time at
Friday evening, June 10th. On that
occasion the magic of art for a fleeting hour wilI transform the Smith Opera House
into the Royal Opera of an earlier Geneva Petrograd. Present and former members of the Pavlowa Ballet
will contribute to the Soiree de Danse.
These include such prominent artists as Mlle. Talma, Mlle. Saxova, Mlle.
Sheffield, Mlle. Verina, M. Nicholoff and M. Gardner . . . The programme will be
given under the auspices of the Hobart Centennial Fund Committee, the proceeds
being devoted to the . . . Fund. The
occasion will signalize the initial appearance here of Pavlowa’s
associates. The performance will be invested
with the delicate grace of Pavlowa and the elusive charm of Schischinska. [Pavlova and Kschessinskaya
both danced in the Ballets Russes, and Pavlova later toured with her own
The engagement is for a single evening only. Preceding the box office sale, tickets may be had at the Hotel Seneca and at Foster’s Book Store.
The Daily Times reported that the performance itself was “most pleasing,” and gave credit to Nester for the appearance of the troupe in
The Ballet Russe was new to
and most entrancingly diverting. . . Advance notices . . . had quite modestly kept
Mr. Nester's connection with the whole venture in the background, but no sooner
had the first curtain risen than the evidences of his clever handwork came into
view and the audience . . . realize[d] that it was he who had
conceived and carried out the ballet . . . Geneva
The scenery and the costumes were designed by Mr. Nester and, as regards the scenery, some of the smaller portions . . . were even executed by his hand. The scenery . . . made a rich and picturesque setting for the various dances, and the costumlngs [sic] were daringly original, in colors that pleased the eye, harmonized with each other and with the stage settings and . . . were most artistic. The costumes were made by Mlle. Talma and M. Gardner from the color plate designs furnished by Mr. Nester.
. . . Each dance was a picture, a poem, a song, a dramatic interlude, a dream, a harmony in poetic motion, graceful rhythm and beautiful colorings. None but an artist of deep feeling could have carried out so perfect a conception.
Between the divisions of the program there was a demand from the audience for "Nester! Nester!” and Mr. Nester was finally obliged to come before the curtain, where he gracefully thanked the audience for the cordial support given him.
Nester had further plans for dance in his home town. The Daily Times reported in September 1921 that Nester:
Plans to Build Greek Theater
The production of the "Ballet Russe" at the Smith Opera House . . . is part of a plan that Mr. Nester has long entertained for the advancement of dancing art in his home city. . . . he has been planning for several years to construct an open air theater on the grounds to rear of his residency . . . in
South Main street. The grounds on the lake front of the estate
provide the natural slope to make an ideal location for such a theater. Mr. Nester is contemplating a theater
inspired by his own sketches of classical ruins . . . When this theater is completed, which
will other distinguished artists who will quicken
the interests of the people of the city in the best of terpsichorean, chore[o]graphic
and dramatic art. . . .
As far as we know, the outdoor theater was never built. Perhaps Nester decided against it when he realized that an open air theater could be used only half the year in
|Unidentified dancers from the Nestor Family files at the Geneva Historical Society.|