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Born in Moscow in 1896, Leonide Massine studied acting and dancing at the Imperial School in Moscow and had almost decided to become an actor when Sergey Diaghilev, seeking a replacement for Vaslav Nijinsky, invited Massine to join his company. After a few months of study under Italian dancer and teacher Enrico Cecchetti, Massine made his Paris debut in La Legende de Joseph in 1914 and received favourable comment on his dramatic dance ability and commanding stage personality. Diaghilev supervised his artistic education, taking him to museums and concerts and introducing him to such people as the Russian painter Mikhail Larionov, the conductor Ernest Ansermet, and the composer Igor Stravinsky, all of whom influenced Massine’s approach to dance. Diaghilev also encouraged his choreographic talent. Massine’s first work as a choreographer, Le Soleil de nuit, was produced in 1915. Massine extended Michel Fokine’s choreographic reforms by enriching and clarifying narration and characterizations. His ballets incorporated both folk dance and the demi-caractere dance, a style that uses classical technique to perform character dance. He added variety and complexity by including synchronized yet individual or small-group dance patterns within the corps de ballet.
Massine died in 1979.