What makes a Russian dancer Russian? In 1909 Sergei Diaghilev essentially created a tradition of "Russian ballet" through his Ballets Russes, which brought the stars of the imperial Petersburg theater to Paris and other Western capitals. By commissioning new and innovative works, such as Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring and Firebird, Diaghilev revolutionized the standard repertoire of dance ensembles around the world. Ballet dancers such as Vaslav Nijinsky, Anna Pavlova, Mathilde Kschessinska, Dame Alicia Markova, all worked closely with Diaghilev. Post-Diaghilev, Rudolf Nureyev (an ethnic Tatar) and Mikhail Baryshnikov were both born in the Russian-dominated Soviet Union, and later escaped to live and dance in the West. All of these artists, despite their varied origins, considered themselves to be Russian dancers. Why? What, in their view, made them Russian? Careful and original analysis of their memoirs and other writings suggests that Russian identity is highly complex and composed of many different elements. Some dancers inherited their Russian identity from their parents. Others acquired their Russian identity through language, religious conversion to Orthodox Christianity, a common tradition of ballet training, participation in distinctly Russian dance companies, or culture. In general, these dancers do not regard "Russianness" as innate; instead, Russian identity is created and achieved through cultural practices. By participating in the educational tradition of the Imperial ballet, these dancers become Russian.