100 years ago this evening, the beautiful people of Paris turned up at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, a smart new theatre in Paris, to watch a ballet.
But it was like no ballet they had heard or seen before. Even the opening bassoon solo elicited loud laughs of derision from the bemused audience. And when the dancing started, so did the rioting.
The Rite of Spring, with music by Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky, is a discordant howl from the Steppes of Russia. A tale of prehistoric human sarifice, it was utterly apart from the grace that ballet audiences had come to expect from their visits. The sounds and shapes the audience saw that night were so revolutionary that Nijinsky’s moves were pulled and not recreated for decades.
Lost to us, these incredible ways of moving, for all that time.
And yet the moment I set eyes on them I was infatuated. Utterly enthralled. Pagan, lawless, wild and without boundaries, testing even death, the choreography was demanding and exhausting for that ballet comany, the Ballets Russes, a century ago tonight.
In 1989 a ballet company got Nijinsky’s moves out once again. And to my eternal gratitude, they not only reacreated the ballet the way Nijinsky wanted it; they filmes it as well.
Celebrate with me. Watch The Rite Of Spring tonight, 100 years since it caused mayhem in Paris. You might like to have your own little riot to commemorate the occasion. Throw a few sandwiches. Jeer in muted tones.
But don’t miss it.
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