It’s difficult to classify the movement in Vaslav Nijinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps as ballet; today, we would denote such vocabulary as modern dance. But Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, which premiered the ballet in Paris in 1913, embraced France's emerging avant-garde culture at the time. They premiered works by new choreographers whose names we now recognize (Michel Fokine, Bronislava Nijinska and George Balanchine, to name a few). But when Diaghilev commissioned Nijinsky and composer Igor Stravinsky to create Le Sacre du Printemps, he set fire to the audience. Nijinsky choreographed heavy, grounded, awkward movement with turned-in feet, to the dissonant and stringent accents of Stravinsky’s score. They created an atmosphere so foreign and uncomfortable that the audience at Paris' Théâtre des Champs-Élysées broke into a riot.
Nijinsky’s choreography was presumed lost until the Joffrey Ballet’s 1987 reconstruction. After years of research, dance historians Millicent Hodson and Ken Archer recovered Nijinsky’s notations, sketches and photographs to revive the piece. This video shows the ballet's last scene, when the community’s chosen sacrificial virgin dances to her death. Beatriz Rodriguez dances the role with the fear and force that the choreography requires, bringing the spirit of the Ballet Russes back to the stage. Happy #ThrowbackThursday!