AN exhibition of costumes, programmes and objet d’art from one of history’s most influential ballet companies will make its UK debut in Worcester this spring.

Never before seen material telling the story of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes will be at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museums alongside a Hayward Gallery Touring exhibition Matisse: Drawing with Scissors from February 2 until April 27. Ballets Russes was the most spectacular and scandalous ballet company of the early 1900s and Matisse was one of many artists commissioned to create costumes and scenery for it. The exhibition also includes work by other great artists of the period including Dame Laura Knight.

Philippa Tinsley, curator at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, said: “We are very excited to bring these two fabulous exhibitions to Worcester. We are very proud to be the first venue in the UK to show the Ballets Russes collection, it is an extraordinary collection of objects illustrating just how spectacular the Ballets Russes was in the early 1900s. Matisse: Drawing with Scissors will be a visual delight for all visitors.”

The Ballets Russes was an itinerant ballet company based in Paris that performed between 1909 and 1929 throughout Europe and on tours to North and South America. However, it never performed in Russia, where the Revolution disrupted society.

Originally conceived by impresario Sergei Diaghilev, the Ballets Russes is widely regarded as the most influential ballet company of the 20th century, partly because it promoted ground-breaking artistic collaborations among young choreographers, composers, designers, and dancers, all at the forefront of their several fields. Diaghilev commissioned works from composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Claude Debussy, and Sergei Prokofiev, artists such as Vasily Kandinsky, Alexandre Benois, Pablo Picasso, and Henri Matisse, and costume designers Léon Bakst and Coco Chanel.

His sharp eye discovered the dancers Valslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina, the designers Picasso, Bakst, Benois, Gontcharova, Braque and Derain, whose designs electrified a drowsy Europe and changed the nature of both music and colour appreciation in the West.

Nijinsky became Diaghilev's lover in late 1908. But the relationship abruptly halted when Nijinsky married and Diaghilev dismissed him from the company in 1913. Diaghilev died in 1929.

Entrance to both exhibitions is free and there is the opportunity to hear more about Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes from the exhibition’s curator on Tuesday, March 12 in a talk starting at 1pm. Admission to that is £3 per person and tickets can be booked in advance on 01905 25371.