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Leisure performance: Parade

(Added 8 October 2007)

Cardboard costume, Pablo Picasso, 1917

Ballet was a machine to produce a poem- Cocteau, Cahier Roman, 1917.

In opposition to naturalism, John Cocteau wished to establish a theatre of effects- a synthesis of dance, music and scenic design. In an attempt to “engender formalised worlds of fantasy and delight” Cocteau challenged traditional western theatre’s preoccupation with ‘staged literature’ and attempted to create a new form that combined lightheartedness and the extraordinary, which he described as ‘staged magic’.

An event close to realizing John Cocteau’s vision was the 1917 ballet Parade. The ballet was composed 1916-1917 for Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, with music by Erik Satie, costumes and scenic art by Picasso and a one-act scenario by Cocteau.

The premise of the ballet focused on the french concept of “Parade”, which was a staged performance, come-on or sideshow, to attract attention to the primary action within the circus tent. This theme corresponded with Cocteau’s theories on artistic elitism, where outsiders to an artistic movement are entertained on a surface level, allowing true understanding of the work to be reserved for the initiated. Art, Coteau felt, must be a “a colalboration between seriousness of themes and a lightness of form which is almost a disguise of the theme”.

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