The first showing of “The Rite of Spring” in 1913 elicited audience participation — but not on purpose.
Performed in Paris on May 29, 1913, the ballet incited a riot among elite audience members, who were expecting a performance along the lines of the 19th-century romantic ballet “Swan Lake.”
Audience members began shouting at performers when they realized the ballet was nothing like what they were expecting.
As part of Carolina Performing Arts’ 2012-13 season, “The Rite of Spring at 100” includes 12 new pieces commissioned by CPA and a reconstruction of the original ballet to commemorate its centennial anniversary.
“The taste in France at that time was one of exoticism,” said Severine Neff, professor of music at UNC.
She said the audience was expecting a elegant depiction of Russian spring rites: “What happened instead was a riot.”
But Neff said the ballet will not cause a riot today.
“The whole shock value of it isn’t there anymore,” she said. “There are more dissonant pop pieces.”
The Ballets Russes performed Vaslav Nijinsky’s avant-garde choreography to Igor Stravinsky’s ground- breaking musical score.
The ballet, which includes heavy steps and extreme musical dissonance, was a beacon of the new era of modernism.
Emil Kang, executive director for the arts at UNC, said the ballet premiered at a pivotal moment in history.
“It was the advent of the modernist movement — the idea of upending everything that is understood,” Kang said.
After the premiere, few performed the ballet in its entirety, but Stravinsky’s score remained an influential piece — even making its way to Hollywood in Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.”
Nijinsky’s original choreography was not performed again until 1987, when the Joffrey Ballet recreated it.
Marnie Karmelita, director of artist relations at Carolina Performing Arts, said the season looks toward the future.
“It will be a real cross section of the piece throughout history, but then moving forward with some very interesting and exciting contemporary voices.”
Contact the desk editor at email@example.com.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.