Russian Ballets At Paris In 1913

Images: (Above) Pina Bausch’s company performing her Rite of Spring. (Below) A posed group of dancers in the original 1913 production of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Rite of Spring, showing costumes and backdrop by Nicholas Roerich.

Yesterday, The University of Dayton hosted a program called The Rite of Spring & Its Legacies:  Global and Regional Perspectives.  The Rite of Spring is a famous ballet originally commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev to Igor Stravinsky for music, Valav Nijinsky for choreography, and Nicholas Roerich for costumes and set design.  In 1913 Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes inaugurated The Rite of Spring with their performance in Paris.  Since then, it has been re-choreographed and performed by numerous other dance companies, perhaps most memorably by Pina Bausch’s company in 1975.

For the University of Dayton, Dr. Samuel Dorf organized a unique program where the second major presentation was a performance of Stravinsky’s full Rite of Spring score by Dr. Ingrid Keller on piano.  Dr. Keller’s performed with restrain in her face and drama in her fingertips that reached into her body making it react with great force at the most accented portions.  Her music was as nuanced and provoking as the dynamic clips of choreography we saw in Dr. Lynn Garafola’s wonderful presentation, which began the program.  The second unusual inclusion in this program came from the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Dr. Mary E. Davis.  Dr. Davis’s presented an elegant powerpoint on the importance of fashion in promulgating The Rite of Spring throughout the city of Paris.  She visually showed how Nicholas Roerich’s avant-garde costume designs began a wave of fashion trends that led the audience members to eventually reflect the performers with their garb.  Most prominent fashion magazines at the time, such as Vogue, devoted up to 6 full page spreads to this landmark piece.

By giving deserved weight to the musical score and costumes in The Rite of Spring as much as to the choreography the University of Dayton’s program helped me understand the breadth and reach of this piece in dance, music and fashion history.


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