Countdown to the Rite of Spring – Part 1 of 5

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To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the premiere of The Rite of Spring, NAC Dance is launching a 5 part weekly blog  covering its history. Every Wednesday, leading up to the anniversary on May 29th we will present interesting facts about one of the most enduring and influential works of music and dance to appear on the stage.

The Stage Is Set Sergei Diaghilev was a Russian arts promoter and ballet and opera impresario. He was first brought to recognition as editor of the periodical The World of Art (or Mir Iskusstva). The World of Art movement, led by Alexandre Benois, Diaghilev and artist Léon Bakst, published its first issue of the periodical in 1899 with the aim of promoting artistic individualism. In 1901 Benois was appointed scenic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, where the Imperial Russian Ballet (later renamed Kirov Ballet and then Mariinsky Ballet) performed. In 1907, after several years producing art exhibitions, the group began promoting Russian nationalist operas in Paris to great success.

Enter Ballet After attending the 1907 premiere of Pavillon d’Armide, choreographed by Mikhail Fokine with scenic design by Alexandre Benois, Diaghilev was overwhelmed, and was finally convinced by Benois to bring ballet productions as well as opera to Paris.

The Ballets Russes Diaghilev founded the Ballets Russes in 1909 and directed the company until his death in Venice, Italy in 1929.The company’s first performance was in May 1909 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris; they went on to become one of the most influential ballet companies of the twentieth century. The inaugural season of the Ballets Russes helped reawaken an interest in ballet in France.

Collaborative Creation Diaghilev helped to revolutionize contemporary ballet through his innovative approach to creation; the works of the Ballets Russes brought together emerging creative artists — choreographers, composers, artists and dancers — in groundbreaking collaborations.

Notorious Nijinsky The three most significant choreographers of the company were Mikhail Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky and Léonide Massine. Over its 26-year history the company premiered now-famous works by Mikhail Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska, Léonide Massine, Vaslav Nijinsky and George Balanchine. The most notorious was Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

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