When speaking about the revival of art in Russian in the early 20th century it is important while reviewing this information to understand what Avant-Garde refers to and who Diaghilev is. Avant-Garde refers to experimental or innovative cultural work that pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable as the norm. Second, Sergei Diaghilev could be considered a patron of the arts during the early 20th century in Russia. He was an art critic, patron of the Ballets impresario, and founder of the Ballet Russes, where many famous dancers and choreographers would come from. The beginning of the 20th century Russia was a hotbed for a variety of new art movements. Some of the main ones where: the Symolists who for them music was the pinnacle of their art form. This movement was challenged by the Acmeists who were realist in expressing art. From this radical movement of the avant-garde to notable artist emerged-Natalya Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov. They where the first Russian “Impressionist” and launch a new movement Primitivism. This movement spanned painting, poetry and music and the influence could be seen in Stavinsky’s Rite of Spring. Rite of Spring, from my own impression reminded me of a folklore ballet that are performed throughout the world. It breaks from tradition in that it does not remind one of the refined ballets one is use to seeing. It show raw and unconstrained emotion. It is more about expression of emotion set to dance then performing specific dance moves is as the case in a traditional ballet. The Primitivist movement no doubt had a strong influence on Stravinsky while creating this ballet. During this time period another unusual thing that is worth noting is the great number of women artist. During this same time period in Europe few major women artist stand out but that is not the case in Russia. The influence of Russian art on the rest of Europe cannot be overlooked. While many of the great Russian impressionist are not as familiar to mainstream as other notable impressionist of this time are they led the way in true abstract art that Europe followed a few years later. Personally I love Malevich pride in his abstract art when he proclaims “objects had disappeared like smoke.” Russian artist culture was on a roll. During a brief period Russia had ushered in the 20th century as a leader in artistic expression. They were truly progressive and ahead of the times in many way. However almost overnight the curtain fell, i.e. the Russian Revolution, on the cultural revival taking place with a dearth of expression coming from the Rodina.
While admitting that I know next to nothing about the expressive art of dancing, particularly interpretive dancing, “Rite of Spring” illustrates much of what the article “The Avant-Garde” discusses in a much more condensed and focused context. This particular show that was staged in Prague (that was originally choreographed and produced during the time in Russia that allowed for artistic freedom of expression) referred to itself in the opening credits as “Picture of Pagan Russia in 2 Acts”. I believe that everything from the style of performance and the imagery of the costumes combined with the tribal-esque movements of the dancers was a statement on cultural rebirth in the arts and understanding of art from the traditional and old “Pagan” Russia. The dance style is obviously very different than that of traditional ballet which demonstrates grace and composure in its movements where as “Rite of Spring” demonstrates almost freestyle like dancing. The emotions evoked from a typical ballet show would not evoke the feelings of terror and adrenaline rush (particularly in the second act) as it is in this show. It seems that the performance is a statement on the rebirth of the dramatics as a whole in the Avant-Garde era in Russia.
I too agree that “Rite of Spring” is a departure away from the traditional and classic ballet. However, the precision in the group circle dances shows existence of classical training, but they pushed the limits of their art form to the next plane. By placing the unconventional into society’s view of what dance and arts should and could be they developed the spectrum of what are acknowledged as masterpieces. “The Advant-Garde” movement led to some of the “newer” dance styles which to this day are still recognized as innovative and forward-thinking.