Cultural events

The Swedish ballet, 1920-1925 - An avant-garde company


  • Jean and Joël Martel - Jean Börlin in Skating rink, ballet by Jean Börlin, 1922 - Ceramic statuette © Jean and Joël Martel / ADAGP, Paris, 2014 | BnF, Opera Library

    Jean and Joël Martel - Jean Börlin in Skating rink, ballet by Jean Börlin, 1922 - Ceramic statuette

  • Practical information

  • Bibliothèque-musée de l'Opéra

    every day from 10.00am to 5.00pm

    Full price: 10 €
    Reduced price: 6 €

    FNAC Reservation: 0892 684 694 (0,34 €/mn all taxes included) and at

from June 11, 2014 to September 28, 2014 Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra

As a counterpoint to the exhibition dedicated to the Russian Ballet in 2009, the Bibliothèque nationale de France and Paris Opera have organized an exhibition on the Swedish Ballet. Presented at the Opera Library, the display will allow visitors to discover a ballet company, deeply committed to the international avant-garde, and the major rival of Diaghilev’s company.
Built in Paris by Rolf de Maré, the Swedish Ballet performed over 2700 shows around the world (Europe and United-States), during five seasons, between 1920 and 1925.
Although somewhat overshadowed by the Russian Ballet, it is successful, both at the choreographic level and in the field of multidisciplinarity (dance, poetry, music, sets, costumes, cinema…) in large part due to the fact that the Swedish Ballet was able to gather the most talented artists of the time: the composers Claude Debussy, Darius Milhaud, Isaac Albeniz, Alfredo Casella, Germaine Tailleferre, Erik Satie, Arthur Honegger, Cole Porter, the conductor Désiré-Emile Ingelbrecht, the poets Blaise Cendrars, Paul Claudel, Luigi Pirandello, Jean Cocteau, Riciotto Canudo, the painters Fernand Léger, Giorgio De Chirico, Pierre Bonnard, Jean Hugo, Foujita, Gerald Murphy and Francis Picabia, the film director René Clair.
This exhibition will be the opportunity to re-discover Jean Börlin (1893-1930), the only choreographer of the company. As the favourite student of Michel Fokine, he knew how to go against the classical teaching he had received to invent a more open choreographic language and experiment new ways of artistic expression. The exhibition will focus more particularly on the relationships between the dancer-choreographer and Picasso’s painting, Nordic folklore and tales, cinema. It will present his choreographic idea of moving scenes. It will also highlight the masterpieces housed at the Opera Library. These collections are part of the collection donated by Rolf de Maré to the Archives internationales de la danse, in 1952, some of which have never been presented before; set and costume sketches by Fernand Léger, Nils de Dardel, Alexandre Alexeieff; stage costumes never presented since the Sixties, photographs of ballets and dancers, show posters, paintings and sculptures by Karl Hofer, Per Krohg, Antti Favén or the Martel brothers. These are determining pieces of evidence, not only for the history of the evolution of visual arts but also for the history of performing arts (mime, folk dance, modern dance, artistic performances…). Ultimately, it will show how the Swedish ballet remained a major company for Paris Opera. Carina Ari, the company’s star is engaged at the Opera as well as the painters (Léger, de Chirico) and musicians (Milhaud, Honegger…) who formerly worked with Rolf de Maré.The Opera also welcomes a reconstitution of Relâche by Moses Pendelton in 1979. This exhibition aims therefore to restore the
position of the Swedish ballet as a major link in the history of 20th century dance and arts.


Monday, April 7, 2014