On May 11, Kansas City Ballet’s Artistic Director Devon Carney and Music Director Ramona Pansegrau participated in a panel discussion with Dr. Ilyana Karthas, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Missouri – Columbia that was moderated by Dr. Matthew Naylor, President and CEO of the National World War I Museum and Memorial. The goal was to examine the historical, cultural, dance and musical context of the May 29, 1913 dramatic premiere of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which resulted in a riot.
“So, imagine–the opening of the 1913 Ballet Russe season. An eagerly awaited premiere of a new work by Igor Stravinsky, choreographed by the great dancer Nijinsky, with sets and costumes by Roerich. Audiences had seen and heard Stravinsky’s lavish Firebird—a wonderful fairytale story, with memorable and singable melodies. So they eagerly awaited more of the same,” said Pansegrau. They received something very different.
Interested in what the original version was like? The Joffrey Ballet recreated the 1913 version of Rite of Spring with Nijinsky’s original choreography: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF1OQkHybEQ.
Here is a movie made about it entitled “Riot at the Rite”, also using the Joffrey’s recreation of the choreography. It is interesting to see the crowd’s supposed interaction! To see the reenactment you’ll want to start at minute 45:00. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcZ7lfdhVQw Movie credits: BBC produced, 2005.
Maurice Bejart created a version in 1959 (first performed date). This version incorporated a theme of evolution. Kansas City Ballet Artistic Director Devon Carney danced this version during his career. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XedawBHB-uc.
Pina Bausch created this version in 1975. The entire stage is covered in dirt. As the dancers danced, they got sweatier and sweatier until the dirt started to cover their skin! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOTjyCM3Ou4
Despite the years, Rite of Spring is still a work that excites and disturbs in equal measure.
The May 11th event (pictured below) was sponsored by Alliance Française in partnership with the Kansas City Ballet and the National World War I Museum and Memorial.