Parade is a ballet with music by Erik Satie and a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau. The ballet was composed 1916-1917 for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The ballet premiered on May 18, 1917 at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, with costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso, a choreography by Léonide Massine (who was also dancing), and the orchestra conducted by Ernest Ansermet.
The idea of the ballet seems to have come from Jean Cocteau: he had heard Satie's Trois morceaux en forme de poire in a concert, and thought of writing a ballet scenario to such music. Satie welcomed the idea of composing ballet music (which he had never done until that moment), but refused to allow any of his previous compositions to be used for the occasion: so Cocteau started writing a scenario (the theme being a publicity parade in which three groups of circus artists try to attract an audience to an indoor performance), to which Satie composed the music (with some additions to the orchestral score by Cocteau, see below).
Work on the production started in the middle of the First World War, with Jean Cocteau travelling back and forth to the war front in Belgium until shortly before the premiere. The most difficult part of the creative process, however, seems to have been to convince Misia Edwards in supporting the idea of having this ballet performed by the Ballets Russes: she had very long toes, but was trusted completely by Sergei Diaghilev for advice on his productions. A first version of the music (for piano) was dedicated to Misia and performed in 1916.
Eventually, after aborting some other plans (and some more intrigue), Sergei Diaghilev's support was won, and the choreography was entrusted to Léonide Massine, who had recently become the first dancer of the Ballets Russes and lover of Diaghilev, replacing Vaslav Nijinsky who had left Paris shortly before the outbreak of the war. The set and costume design was entrusted to the then cubist painter Pablo Picasso.
The ballet was and is remarkable from several viewpoints:
The Ragtime contained in Parade would later be adapted for piano solo, and attained considerable success as a separate piano piece.
The premiere of the ballet resulted in a classical music riot. Satie and Cocteau were labeled "cultural anarchists," and Satie went to prison for eight days.