Kathryn Hughes at The Guardian:
When young Serge Diaghilev set out to save an art form, ballet was not his first choice. The law student from the unpromising city of Perm in the Urals had started the 20th century by wanting to be a composer, until he showed his music to Rimsky-Korsakov, who was simply appalled. Then he switched to curating Russian avant-garde art, which was thrilling but had no international market. Finally, he worked his way around to ballet, which had struck him as silly when he first encountered it. Still, that was half the fun. As his friend Alexandre Benois said later: “He knew how to will a thing, he knew how to carry his will into practice.”
The will in this case involved taking an exhausted, despoiled art form and twisting it into such thrilling new shapes that the world could not help but sit up and take notice.