In May of 1913, the choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky premiered a ballet that culminated in a riot. The ballet, “The Rite of Spring,” was set to Igor Stravinsky’s notoriously finicky score, which tremors and thrums like something buried, vengeful, underground. Over the course of the performance, Nijinsky’s cast enacted two sacred rites; the first, a harvest celebration, and the second, the ritual sacrifice of the Chosen One, a virginal maiden commanded to dance until she dies. Stravinsky had composed the piece to evoke his family home in Russia, the wildness of village life, and the cyclical rites of harvest growth and winter death. Nijinsky dressed his cast of men and women dancers like medieval Russian villagers; long dresses and tunics, white tights crossed by oxblood ribbons, knee-grazing braids and painted pale faces.
Misty Copeland, Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo in ”AfteRite.” Photograph by Marty Sohl.