RITE OF SPRING/SACRE DU PRINTEMPS
Diaghilev revived the ballet in 1920 with a new choreography by Léonide Massine.
Massine’s Sacre premiered in the same theatre as the original production, Théâtre Champs-
Elysées, and it was the last ballet that Léonide Massine created for the Ballets Russes under
Diaghilev’s tutelage. (He returned to choreograph two ballets a few years later.) He left the
company shortly after the première and embarked on a long and remarkable choreographic
career, using the tools that he had developed during his collaboration with Stravinsky. This
paper will examine Léonide Massine’s choreography for Le Sacre du printemps, with an
introduction to his movement vocabulary in his theory of composition and a discussion of the
In 1930, Massine was invited to restage his 1920 Sacre for a charity performance at the
Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Massine cast the young modern dancer Martha Graham
as the Sacricial Maiden and hired dancers from the Humphrey-Weidman group. While former
Diaghilev choreographer Michel Fokine distrusted and derided American modern dancers,
Massine didn’t perceive their dffering aesthetic ideologies as a threat.
by Rachel Straus, Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism
The American pioneer modernist danced The Chosen One in Léonide Massine's 1930 version
and created her own company version in 1984.
"When you have to do the same movement over and over, do not get bored with yourself, just
think of yourself as dancing toward your death. In The Rite of Spring, when I danced the Chosen
One, as I did so many continuous times, and came to my moment of finality, I thought of my
"[In 1930 the conductor Leopold] Stokowski decided that Léonide Massine would choreograph
Le Sacre, since he was responsible for the success of the 1920 Paris revival... We agreed to
work together. He was reconstructing the ballet and he frankly did not like me. We had many of
our rehearsals at the Dalton School. Every time I did my solo he would turn his back on me,
which is a big help, you know. During rehearsals, someone commented that Massine and I
looked alike - we were both thin and dark and could have been mistaken for siblings. He was
generous with me at the start, but after a time he asked me to resign. He thought I was going to
fail. His mistress at the time, he felt, would be just right. Nothing could move me to resign. The
more he ignored me, the more he came up to me when I was seated on the floor and whispered,
'You should withdraw. You will have a terrible disaster if you are not a classical ballet dancer,'
the more I wanted to stay. Stokowski was firm and said I would dance Élue... It was a very trying
time for me because I was not accepted. I was an outsider. I did exactly what Massine told me to
do. I interpreted nothing of my own except some qualities of emotion."
by Ismene Brown
Monday, 01 April 2013
The author worked with Léonide Massine as a dancer and choreographic assistant, and holds
the Massine Diploma in Theory and Composition.