Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Today -100: May 29, 1913: Le Massacre du printemps


Wobblies storm a meeting of non-IWW strikers (English-speaking ones) in Paterson to prevent them setting a date for a return to work.

Headline of the Day -100: “Turtle Germs Fail Again.” A doctor thought he had a cure for tuberculosis.

Headline of the Day -100, Runner Up (LA Times): “To Pit Polish Against Trash.” About a plan offered by a member of the DAR who glories in the name Miss Elizabeth J. Virtue for erudite orators of the highest education and culture to combat the soapbox speeches by IWW speakers in Seattle.

Speaking of high culture, Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), choreographed by Nijinsky, premieres in Paris. Some considered it primitive and offensive; some were horrified and scandalized by the fact that the dancers toed inward instead of outward and the dancing was angular and modern and violent rather than classical and graceful. And, as was the custom in Paris, they were a bit loud about it. Carl Van Vechten, the NYT’s music critic (who was sitting with Gertrude Stein, at least at the second performance) wrote: “Cat-calls and hisses succeeded the playing of the first few bars, and then ensued a battery of screams, countered by a foil of applause. We warred over art (some of us thought it was and some thought it wasn’t)... I remember Mlle. Piltz executing her strange dance of religious hysteria on a stage dimmed by the blazing light in the auditorium, seemingly to the accompaniment of the disjointed ravings of a mob of angry men and women.” Jean Cocteau would say that the audience played “the role that was written for it.” Le Figaro, whose critic called the ballet “a laborious and puerile barbarity,” suggested on its front page a couple of days later that a treaty be negotiated with Russia: “Nijinsky would have to agree not to stage any more ballets that aspire to a level of beauty inaccessible to our feeble minds... we would continue to assure him that he is the greatest dancer in the world, the most handsome of men, and we would prove this to him. We should then be at peace.”

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