Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, Prelude to the Great War

By Diane Rooney

There is a ballet that will forever be associated with the Great War. It was not set on a battlefield, but it was certainly a premonition of the unbridled violence soon to come.

Dancers from the Original Production

On 29 May 1913 the ballet "The Rite of Spring" (Le Sacre du Printemps), premiered in Paris. It caused a riot. Igor Stravinsky's ballet, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, is set in pagan Russian times; the rite of spring is the ritual sacrifice of a maiden (The Chosen One) to ensure successful crops. The music, choreography, costumes, and staging were unlike anything ever seen before: discordant, irregular, and wild. At least 40 attendees were taken away by the police.

Scene from a Joffrey Ballet Staging

The premiere soon came to be seen as a cultural fracture point—evidenced by the breaking of the fourth wall, the lack of familiar music and dance structure, the public release of wild, even violent emotion, the display of ritual violence on stage, and the breakdown of established norms of behavior. Symbolically, it came to represent or foreshadow the unrestrained horrors of the Great War and the sweeping social and cultural changes that followed it.

1 comment:

  1. Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age by Modris Eksteins is an excellent study of the ballet itself and its relationship to World War One.