Parade is a realistic ballet in one scene, based on a theme by Jean Cocteau. The music was done by Erik Satie, choreography by Massine, curtain, décor and costumes designed by Pablo Picasso. The first performance of Parade was at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on May 18, 1917.
Cocteau says that the first draft of the Parade ballet was a brief ballet project called David, something he had sketched out in 1914. The ballet was to take place in front of the entrance booth of a traveling fair. David was never written, but Cocteau’s first contact with Erik Satie was in 1915, with his collaboration with Picasso beginning the following year.
Diaghilev met Picasso in the spring of 1916 when a mutual friend, Mme. Eugenia Errazuriz brought him to Picasso’s studio. It was then that Diaghilev commissioned Picasso to do the mise-en-scene for Parade. Both Picasso and Cocteau left for Rome in February of 1917, where Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was dancing. There they met and worked with Massine.
Among the costumes Picasso designed was a horse, initially with a mannequin-rider. During the dress rehearsal, the rider fell off of the horse causing the audience to laugh, so it was removed for the remaining performances. The costume for the American Girl, which Picasso had not sketched, was actually bought the day before at a sporting goods store. The costume for the Female Acrobat that Massine had added at the last minute was made of hand-painted spiral designs Picasso painted directly onto Lydia Lopoukhova’s legs.
After a three year absence, Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes returned to Paris’s Theatre du Chatelet with Parade, a pioneer Cubist theatrical spectacular. Satie and Cocteau often disagreed regarding the noises that Cocteau wanted added to Satie’s scores. But, Cocteau was over ruled by Diaghilev and they were left out.
When the curtain went down on Parade, the audience was violent and contradictory. It was acclaimed by many intellectuals, but the public didn’t like it. It was well ahead of its time and was never added to the regular repertoire of the Ballets Russes.
In 1923, when Diaghilev wanted to restage the ballet, he asked Picasso to touch up the curtain which had been taken over by mildew. Picasso refused saying that it resembled the deteriorated frescoes of Pompeii and should remain that way!
Read "DIAGHILEV And the Ballets Russes" by Boris Kochno, 1970.