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In the article, “100 years ago today, ‘The Rite of Spring’ incited a riot in a Paris theater,” the author, Amar Toor, writes about the “riot” that happened during the first public performance of “The Rite of Spring” on May 29th, 1913 in Paris. Toor writes of how this incident was mostly eye witness news, and as people debate whether it was the music or the dance, it’s still a mystery of what exactly started the riot. The audience booed at the performance and threw vegetables onto the stage until it gotten to a point where the dancers couldn’t hear the orchestra anymore. Overall, both Stravinsky and Nijinsky, the composer and choreographer, had made a significant impact on the audience on the day of the first performance.

The article, “Did Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring incite a riot at its premiere?” talks about what actually happened at the premiere. Tamara Levitz, a musicological researcher, pointed out that many firsthand accounts were from people in the balcony, and so the music was “… exceptionally resonant due to aspects of its architecture… the environment likely exaggerated the effect in the balcony, rendering the sound overwhelming.” Levitz concludes that this may have caused an “an unsettling sonic chain reaction.” The dance was based off of ritual sacrifice in what Stravinsky and his collaborators imagined prehistoric Russia to be, and was also inspired by dances in Siberia. Parts of the dance are seen as very racist today, but back then, the audience, mainly aristocrats, responded by laughing. This behavior from the aristocracts had, as the article states, “appalled the critics, musicians, and music lovers, so they responded by complaining and insulting the aristocrats,” and while most depicitons of this conflict have people shouting across the whole theater, Levitz comments, “In truth, only those sitting close to the people who uttered these insults probably heard them at all.”

When I first watched the video of the ballet, I felt disturbed looking at the movements while listening to the accompanied music from the orchestra. I also felt fear at some parts where the jerking and stomping set me off guard, and I could see how this was meant to be a “sacrificial” dance. If I was in the audience in 1913, I think I’ll be shocked and overwhelmed, because the performance was something I’ve never seen before, and the music would also probably be very loud and dramatic since it was performed in a large theater.

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April 2024

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