Vaslav Nijinsky choreographed the ballet The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps) with music by Igor Stravinsky. The Rite of Spring showcases one of the most important aspects of modernism that emerged around the beginning of the First World War and exploded in the years following: the inclusion of “ugliness” in art. The depressed economy in Europe; the coal-powered, black-soot polluted cityscapes that came at the cost of urban industrialism; horrible working conditions; and the tragedy and horror of World War I combined with expressionism, decadence, impressionism, symbolism, the new field of psychology, and a dozen other prewar artistic and philosophical movements to create a European artistic climate focused on ugly subjects, situations, and styles that had been avoided in the past.
Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring caused a riot in 1913 when it premiered. It was called ugly, a cacophony of sound, and more like lurching and stomping than ballet. Watch The Rite of Spring and write down each element, musical or visual, that you believe is ugly.
1. Dance: the dance of death