Revisiting The Rite

Five incarnations of Stravinsky's best-known work

Igor Stravinsky

To celebrate Stravinsky's birthday, we have revisited one of his best-known works, The Rite of Spring.


A depiction of a ritualistic ceremony in which the Chosen One dances herself to death, the work was premiered in Paris to an infamously riotous reception. It wasn't just the avant-garde nature of the music that audiences reacted to, but also Vaslav Nijinsky's violent choreography.

We have selected five performances that each shed light on a different aspect of the work.

1. Joffrey Ballet – choreography

Though it is impossible to watch the 1913 performance of The Rite of Spring, the Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet staged the work in 1989 using the original choreography, once thought to be lost. The primitive tribal costumes complement the extreme dancing depicting the ritual.

2. Brussels Philharmonic – music

Heard in isolation, the electrifying drama, grit and beauty of Stravinsky's score can be contemplated in all its glory in an orchestral performance. In the version below, Michel Tabachnik conducts the Brussels Philharmonic live.

3. Pina Bausch – paganism

In Pina Bausch’s choreography of the piece, the tribal implications of the work come through in the division between men and women. The stage floor is covered with earth and the dancers become more and more dirty as the ballet progresses.

4. Disney's Fantasia – the passage of time

Disney's popular 1940 film Fantasia uses the music of The Rite of Spring to accompany the extinction scene. The film depicts the Earth’s beginnings, the first living organisms, and the reign and eventual extinction of the dinosaurs.

5. Stephen Malinowski – score

Another visual interpretation of the piece is found in this digital graphic score made by Stephen Malinowski. Rather than telling the story of the piece, this score elucidates the enormous complexity of Stravinsky’s melodies and orchestration.


Jamie Maule