The "Rite of spring" is one of the most famous traditional dances with music available today. The ballet has acquired global recognition due to its rich melody, powerful lines and orchestration. "Rite of spring" was composed by a Russian artist Igor Stravinsky, who was very famous due to his wonderful compositions in the early 20th century. He had composed other dances with music before Rite of spring which were very popular amongst his fans. These included the "Firebird", a work for dance and orchestra in 1910, and 'Petrushka' in 1910-11. 'The fire bird' was based on Russian folk tales of the magic bird that brought both a blessing and a curse to its captor. The ballet is very famous since it marked the collaboration of Stravinsky and Diaghilev that led to production of Petrushka and the Rite of spring (Walsh 51-54).
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"The Rite of Spring" is well known for its innovative complex rhythmic structures, timbres and use of dissonance. Its performance last for about 30 to 35 minutes. Unlike his previous compositions where he targeted his Russian people, Stravinsky created this piece of classical music targeting people from Paris and other parts of Europe who had a different cultural and religious practice. People of Paris were traditionalists and tribal beats and dances in public forums were a common phenomenon. He wanted to create a dance around a tribal myth of a virgin being sacrificed and this work was eventually referred to as the "Rite of Spring". The composition is a unique one since music and dance follows a plot of a small girl being sacrificed to soothe the god of spring so that he could provide spring season (Wenborn 58).
The first ballet performance of the 'Rite of spring' by Stravinsky took place in Paris on May 29, 1913. It constituted a powerful musical performance and a traditional setting of pagans from Russia. This was a great shock to the audience bearing in mind that they were used to romantic melodies which were popular in classical ballets performed in Europe during that era. The complex music and violent dancing moves that portrayed fertility rite made the crowd to go out of control. This later turned to shouting and fighting resulting to riot. It involved the intervention of Paris police to restore order since the audience went chaotic even with a mere reminder of the performance. Although Stravinsky and Nijinsky were downhearted by the situation the director of Les Ballets Russes was pleased and commented that he wanted that kind of a scandal (Hill 166).
There are several reasons why the audience reacted madly on this performance. Firstly, the audience may not have been ready for Stravinsky thrilling work by then. It should be noted that during this era Paris had a strong sense of religion and only the classical primitive romantic melodies were common to the people. The audience was not ready for a violent dance that portrayed pagan cultural practices. Costumes used by the dancers were not what they expected from Stravinsky especially with experience from his previous performances. They were used to glittering dances with fine costumes but in this the Rite of spring dancers were dressed in rags which were unfussy (White, 396).
Violent dancing and crowded dancers was an unusual scenario to the audience since they roughly moved on the stage making a lot of noise. They felt that the dance was not in cohesion with their religious beliefs and on the contrary it portrayed a culture that was believed to be from pagans in Russia. The noise was very loud that it moved the audience out of their seats. The music itself did not please them since was harsh with no rhythm. This was a shocking change to the audience that had a previous experience of melodious and tonal works of the composer. Generally, the music was far much a head of time and there was no way the audience could accept such ultramodern composition from Stravinsky (Walsh 91).
Part 1 of the "The 'Rite of Spring" is about the adoration of the earth where the composer recalls his strong memory of his Russian childhood life and how spring left the earth cracking. The introduction coils and slips clearly analogizing ties of fundamental life in the warming soil. This is followed by Harbingers of spring throbbing and pounding powerfully. This is followed by dances of small girls where the audience bellows as groups of adolescents initiate a spring festival. This involves powerful dancing to a traditional folk tune that generates a lot of excitement to the audience. Part 2 of the dance is about the sacrifice to the spring god. The last movement in this part is about the sacrificial dance. The chosen girl begins to dance hesitantly but she increases her moves with time as the ritual motion intoxicates her soul changing her to a victim and a tool of sacrifice. Her energy is consumed in the passion climate created and she exhaustibly staggers and stumbles until when she falls to release her life-force to fertilize earth in favor of the society (White, 399).
Stravinsky did not continue composing works similar to "The Rite of Spring" since the society was not ready for such kind of innovation. He realized that such works could ruin harmony and order in societies such as Paris due to rich religious and cultural beliefs of the people. On the contrary, he turned to neoclassicism works that used traditional musical forms and often paid tribute to earlier masters of music (Hill 201). All in all, 'The Rite of Spring" made Stravinsky one of the most influential composers in the world of music and dance. It is believed to be the genesis of modern energetic songs and dances styles present today.