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The ballet that incited a riot - Iseult Gillespie

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Ballet is typically thought of as harmonious, graceful and polished— hardly something that would trigger a riot. But at the first performance of Igor Stravinsky's “The Rite of Spring,” audience members were so outraged that they drowned out the orchestra. People hurled objects at the stage, started fights and were arrested. What caused this shocking reaction? Iseult Gillespie explains the controversy.

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TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director WOW-HOW Studio
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Storyboard Artist Sasha Dudka, Denis Bousygin
  • Character Designer Denis Bousygin
  • Illustrator Victor Zhuravliov, Nikita Bondarenko, Anastasiia Krakhmal
  • Animator Victor Zhuravliov, Nikita Bondarenko, Alex Bohdan
  • Art Director Marianna Murashko
  • Producer Anna Dolzhenko
  • Sound Designer Jarrett Farkas
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more
Additional Resources for you to Explore
The Rite of Spring has one of the richest and strangest production histories in modern ballet. View photos of some vivid performances through the years here.

The ballet is particularly famous for its unsettling opening scene, a version of which you can watch here. You can also listen to the full score here along with a graphical score to guide you through the different instruments playing.

Stravinsky himself talks about his process of inspiration, doubt and determination in his autobiography, which you can preview here. You can read Stravinsky’s candid remarks about working with Vaslav Nijinsky, the choreographer and dancer. While the combination of Nijinsky’s wild choreography and Stravinsky’s eerie score made The Rite of Spring even more radical, Stravinsky voiced his doubt over Nijinsky’s moves. Reminiscing about the choreography in his autobiography, he wrote of “Nijinsky’s lack of consciousness of what he was doing in creating it.” Perhaps, it was this inharmonious relationship that elevated the strangeness of the final production. Read more about the colorful life and radical art of Nijinsky here, who as this article argues was “the embodiment of a new kind of dancer”

Another key collaborator was the costume and set designer Nicholas Roerich. View some of his distinctive sets for The Rite of Spring here. Then, visit this page for a detailed discussion of his weird and wonderful costumes.

The entire production caused immediate shock on opening night - but the political and cultural shockwaves radiated through the years. This article offers much insight into the effects and legacy of the ballet which turned the genre on its head.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Iseult Gillespie
  • Director WOW-HOW Studio
  • Narrator Susan Zimmerman
  • Storyboard Artist Sasha Dudka, Denis Bousygin
  • Character Designer Denis Bousygin
  • Illustrator Victor Zhuravliov, Nikita Bondarenko, Anastasiia Krakhmal
  • Animator Victor Zhuravliov, Nikita Bondarenko, Alex Bohdan
  • Art Director Marianna Murashko
  • Producer Anna Dolzhenko
  • Sound Designer Jarrett Farkas
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Producer Alex Rosenthal
  • Associate Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Associate Editorial Producer Dan Kwartler
  • Fact-checker Francisco Diez
  • See more