A unique partnership between the University of Adelaide, The Australian Ballet and the National Library will research the "Big Bang" of Australian high art: the Ballets Russes tours to Australian between 1936 and 1940.
The four-year research project received a huge boost yesterday (Tuesday) when the Australian Research Council awarded it a prestigious Linkage grant totalling almost $370,000 over the next four years.
The ARC funding follows the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of Adelaide and The Australian Ballet , which will foster closer collaborations and links between the two institutions across a range of activities.
The Ballets Russes tours exposed Australian audiences to cutting edge high art of the kind scarcely seen here previously, including choreographies by Massine, music by Stravinsky and decors by Picasso.
Such was the impact of the tours on artists and audiences alike that they left a significant and ongoing legacy on the Australian cultural landscape.
The project is designed to coincide with Australian Ballet's special commemorative program celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first Ballets Russes performance in Australia in 1936 (given in Adelaide), as well as the centenary of the Ballets Russes debut in Paris in 1909.
The project will draw upon extensive archival material located in major Australian urban and regional centres, as well as the National Library  in Canberra.
The project will be overseen by Dr Mark Carroll, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Adelaide's Elder School of Music .
According to Dr Carroll, the scale and impact of the Ballets Russes tours on Australian cultural life was unprecedented.
"The Ballet Russes tours really were the "Big Bang" for Australian high art and culture," Dr Carroll says.
"Australian audiences had seen or heard nothing like it before, and for those four years between 1936 and 1940 the tours gripped our imagination - we were fascinated by them.
"The impact of the tours was long-lasting: they inspired a generation of Australian artists. For example, a young Sidney Nolan created the set and costume design for one of the performances in 1940, and the tours led ultimately to the establishment of The Australian Ballet in 1962.
"This project is designed not only to gauge the impact of the tours at the time, but also to assess what has happened since in a way that will help The Australian Ballet's upcoming commemorative performances.
Dr Carroll also says: "The Ballets Russes project represents a major coup for the University of Adelaide, and places us at the forefront of research into the Australian performing arts."