Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography for the Rite of Spring was structured by movement patterns based on simple geometrical forms – such as circles, triangles, lines and angles – which his dancers incorporated with their bodies and limbs.
Repeated over and over again, the patterns were gradually transformed or harshly interrupted by other choreographic figures, thus reflecting the repetitive character of Igor Stravinsky’s music as well as the use of ornament and colour in Nicholas Roerich’s costume design. The non-mimetic character of these ornamental patterns is also strongly related to Nijinsky’s own abstract paintings as well as to the rise of abstract art in Paris of 1913, namely the work of Sonia Delaunay-Terk and František Kupka. Applying to The Rite of Spring new theories of ornament focusing more on generative and perceptive aspects rather than on the decorative functions of ornament, I will ask: what is the relationship between the narrative – the sacrifice of an individual person for the sake of the community – and the use of ornamental patterns in Nijinsky’s choreography? To what extent do abstract ornamental patterns generate narrative, emotional, and even political references? Looking back on The Rite of Spring in the knowledge that it premiered only one year before the outbreak of World War I, does its aesthetic relationship between disruption and continuity ultimately mirror a political impact? Is its use of ornament only connected to a potential continuity of decorative transformation and a lack of representation? Or does the modus of ornament generate narrative, emotional, and even political references?