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Le Sacre du Printemps

May 29, 1913 saw the premiere of this work that would mark the end of dance of the Belle Epoque and the beginning of the modern era. This Nijinsky piece would only have 9 performances before disappearing from the Ballet Russes repertoire, to be reconstituted in 1920 with choreography by Massine. In 1987, the Joffrey Ballet reconstructed this work and it remains in their repertoire at regular intervals.

Millicent Hodson & Kenneth Archer - Reading the Riot Act. An article about the BBC's made for TV film about the night Le Sacre premiered in 1913

Nicholas Roerich. Three Figures (A Youth and Maidens). Costume design for Stravinsky’s ballet “Le Sacre du Printemps” (Act I)

Nicholas Roerich was the prime mover and, with Igor Stravinsky, the co-creator of the ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, or The Rite of Spring. At first entitled The Great Sacrifice: a Tableau of Pagan Russia, the motif for the ballet grew out of Roerich's absorption with antiquity.

"From the first notes of the overture, sounded by a bassoon playing well outside its normal register, Stravinsky's haunting music set the audience on edge. It was the combination of that music with the jarring choreography of the great Vaslav Nijinsky, however, that caused the uproar that followed"

more Roerich imagery

"Where painting has Picasso and poetry has T.S. Eliot, music has Stravinsky. Le Sacre is not merely a caricature of primitive man; it is also an evocation of modern impulse, an episode in the hysterical, disordered mindset of human beings."

Millicent Hodson's sketches of the costumes and formations

perhaps an early Roerich drawing

a still from the Joffrey's performance

Hodson & Archer's Reconstruction of Le Sacre du Printemps with the Joffrey Ballet

Joffrey Ballet 1987 Rite of Spring (1 of 3) In 1987, the Joffrey Ballet received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant in Dance of 243,400 dollars "to support three self-produced seasons in New York City and Los Angeles, and the reconstruction of Vaslav Nijinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps." The reconstruction was done by Millicent Hodson, a choreographer and dance historian, and her husband Kenneth Archer, an art historian.

The Rite of Spring was composed between 1912 and 1913 for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. After undergoing revisions almost up until the very day of its first performance, the ballet was premièred by the Ballets Russes on Thursday, 29 May 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, conducted by Pierre Monteux.

Versions differ on the origin of the concept for The Rite of Spring. Stravinsky later in life said that it came to him in a dream. But contemporary sources support that the idea originated with the Russian philosopher and painter Nicholas Roerich. Roerich shared his idea with Stravinsky in 1910, a fleeting vision of a pagan ritual in which a young girl dances herself to death.

Diaghilev assigned the choreography of the ballet to Vaslav Nijinsky, the company's leading male dancer. Nijinsky conceived of a completely original dance style for the ballet that emphasized earthy staccato movements with feet turned inward. It was a radical departure from ballet as it was known at the time.

Stravinsky writes, "... there arose a picture of a sacred pagan ritual: the wise elders are seated in a circle and are observing the dance before death of the girl whom they are offering as a sacrifice to the god of Spring in order to gain his benevolence. This became the subject of The Rite of Spring."

Alexandra Iosifidi as The Chosen One by FrankLong, via Flickr

Erica Lynette Edwards as The Chosen One in the Rite of Spring. During the performance, when the Sacrificial Virgin shook onstage during her solo dance, her hands held up by her cheeks, someone in the balcony cried out: “Call a doctor . . . a dentist . . . two doctors!!!”

Nicholas Roerich's 1913 set design for Part I: Adoration of the Earth

Archaeologist and painter Nicholas Roerich contributed the set design and the costumes, which were described in a 2002 Ballet Magazine article as "heavy smocks, handpainted with [primitive] symbols of circles and squares."

Diaghilev, Nijinsky and Stravinsky