The Ballet That Provoked A Riot

April 21, 2022

The Rite of Spring was composed by Igor Stravinsky for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes company. The ballet was originally choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, and the costumes and stage designs were created by Nicholas Roerich.

Yes, these are the dancers. Source:(Pinterest/colorized).

The music was a departure for its time; primordial and elemental. It incorporated experiments in meter, stress, rhythm, and tonality. Some have noted its connection to Russian folk music, and many consider it one of the first modernist works. Stravinsky knew it would be controversial, but not that it would incite a riot. Add to that the fact that the company, the Ballets Russes, had developed a reputation for shocking performances.

In creating the score, Stravinsky was inspired by primitive rituals celebrating the appearance of spring. The ballet, which was subtitled Pictures From Pagan Russia, was about the death of a sacrificial virgin who dances herself to death.

The Uproar Began Almost Immediately

Source: (Frank Beacham's Journal/colorized).

On May 29, 1913, The Rite of Spring premiered at the Théâtre de Champs-Elysées in Paris. The crowd definitely reacted to the show. According to one of the dancers, Lydia Sokolova, “They didn't even let the music be played for the overture. As soon as it was known that the conductor was there, the uproar began."