They may be concert hits now, but in their day Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite changed the face of dance.
May 29, 1913: the day classical music changed forever. The date the stage of the newly opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris saw the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s scandalising collaboration with the brilliant, young ballet radical Vaslav Nijinsky, Le Sacre du Printemps, or to use its english translation, The Rite of Spring.
The performance would come to be known as one of the most infamous events of the century. First-hand accounts recorded it as a riotous shambles. Nijinsky’s avant-garde, pointe-less choreography provoked such a din of abuse that some witnesses claimed the score was nearly inaudible. The mind-bending complexity and rhythmic asymmetry of Stravinsky’s music kept the orchestra perpetually teetering on the brink of collapse. The savagery of Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s prehistoric ballet seemed to devolve the irascible masses.
Shouts came from gallery and sniggers from the stalls; members of the audience pulled their hats over their eyes and ears; the bourgeois gentry brandished their canes like cudgels while the bohèmesgazed on, entranced by the spectacle; and at least one person was challenged to a...