Paris’s Théâtre des Champs-Élysées was a new structure, which had opened on 2 April 1913 with a programme celebrating the works of many of the leading composers of the day. The theatre’s manager, Gabriel Astruc, was determined to house the 1913 Ballets Russes season, and paid Diaghilev the large sum of 25,000 francs per performance, double what he had paid the previous year. Ticket sales for the evening, ticket prices being doubled for a premiere, amounted to 35,000 francs. The programme for 29 May 1913 also included Les Sylphides, Weber’s Le Spectre de la Rose and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances.
At the time, a Parisian ballet audience typically consisted of two diverse groups: the wealthy and fashionable set, who would be expecting to see a traditional performance with beautiful music, and a “Bohemian” group who, the poet-philosopher Jean Cocteau asserted, would “acclaim, right or wrong, anything that is new because of their hatred of the boxes”. Final rehearsals were held on the day before the premiere, in the presence of members of the press and assorted invited guests. According to Stravinsky all went peacefully. However, the critic of L’Écho de Paris, Adolphe Boschot, foresaw possible trouble; he wondered how the public would receive the work, and suggested that they might react badly if they thought they were being mocked.
On the evening of the 29 May the theatre was packed: Gustav Linor reported, “Never…has the hall been so full, or so resplendent; the stairways and the corridors were crowded with spectators eager to see and to hear”. The evening began with Les Sylphides, in which Nijinsky and Karsavina danced the main roles. The Rite followed; there is general agreement among eyewitnesses and commentators that the disturbances in the audience began during the Introduction, and grew into a crescendo when the curtain rose on the stamping dancers in “Augurs of Spring”. Marie Rambert, who was working as an assistant to Nijinsky, recalled later that it was soon impossible to hear the music on the stage. In his autobiographical account, Stravinsky writes that the derisive laughter that greeted the first bars of the Introduction disgusted him, and that he left the auditorium to watch the rest of the performance from the stage wings (“I have never again been that angry”). The demonstrations, he says, grew into “a terrific uproar” which, along with the on-stage noises, drowned out the voice of Nijinsky who was shouting the step numbers to the dancers. The journalist and photographer Carl Van Vechten recorded that the person behind him got carried away with excitement, and “began to beat rhythmically on top of my head”, though Van Vechten failed to notice this at first, his own emotion being so great. – from Wikipedia
To me this ballet marks the Spring of modernity in the Western world. Although one could point to little tendrils of ideas poking up even in the Victorian age, World War I ploughed under the cold, hard soil of Christian prudery and self-righteousness. And in the 1920’s there was this sudden, raw and ritualistic burst of art, music, literature and architecture in the west that even the 1960’s could not surpass. Picasso, Gershwin, Joyce, Nin, Miller, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Wildler, Lewis, Huxley, Elliot, Kafka, Nijinski, Balanchine, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jellyroll Morton, Martha Graham, Maria Tallchief, Duke Ellington, Stravinsky, Cecil B. DeMille, Alfred Hitchcock, Gertrude Stein, Langston Hughes, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dalí, Henri Matisse, Frank Lloyd Wright, Bauhaus, just to name a few.
That’s not even mentioning the social movements such as Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League, Irish War of Independence, the Scopes trial, women’s suffrage, the Harlem Renaissance, and the rise of socialism and communism, all along with radical changes in lifestyle, clothing, transportation and eating habits of much of the Western world.
The 1920’s were our cultural spring. As the West passes into it’s summer, similar cultural forces of conflict, demographics and prosperity are busy at work in Asia. The Arab Spring is an felicitous term for the political changes in countries East of GMT, but an understatement on a grand scale.
Perhaps we should call it the Eastern Spring. This time, friends, the revolution will be televised.
“The forces which will sway the future are no other than those of the past. These forces are: the will of the Strong, healthy instincts, race, the will to possession and power; while justice, happiness, and peace – those dreams which will always remain dreams – hover ineffectively over them.” – Oswald Spengler
Asian Fusion Mojito
2 ounces sake
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ounce Lemongrass Simple Syrup (Recipe coming tomorrow!)
1 ounce ginger liqueur (like Domaine de Canton)
10 fresh mint leaves
Combine the lime juice, simple syrup and mint leaves in a glass and muddle. Add the sake and ginger liqueur and stir. Fill the glass with ice and top off with club soda.