Rites (and Wrongs) of Spring

Rite of Spring

Rite of Spring, Joffrey Ballet
(1913 costume design, Nicholas Roerich)

Paris, 29 May 1913

Everything was beautiful at the ballet. Romantic melodies by Chopin, graceful sylphs shimmered in white, Russian dreamboat Nijinsky danced in the moonlight. The first act at the brand new Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was what everyone expected. But as the music of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) began the second part of the program, the audience twitched, twittered and turned hostile.

“One literally could not, throughout the whole performance, hear the sound of music,” said Gertrude Stein (who actually saw the second performance four days later.) Popular composer Puccini (also attending the second night) called the music cacophonous, “the work of a madman.” Suddenly everyone who was anyone in Paris wanted to see what kind of ballet had caused a riot in the theatre on its opening night.

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Drama Queen For A Day

Queen for a Day TV ShowI must admit to a weakness for Reality TV. Not the manipulated “real life” genre usually traced back to Big Brother, which was first broadcast in 1999 on Dutch television. Not the survivors, the amazing races, the housewives, or the shores that followed. The chink in my cultural armor is for programs where contestants battle to be crowned best singer or dancer, most creative cook or savvy apprentice. And I blame it on the immortal question, “Do YOU want to be Queen for a day?”

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Queering Vladimir Putin

Amsterdam Rainbow FlagThe rainbow flags are out in Amsterdam today. No, we’re not celebrating Gay Pride early this year. It’s part of a citywide action to “welcome” Russian President Putin. The official reason for his visit is to celebrate 2013 Year of Friendship, marking 400 years of ties between the Netherlands and Russia. But as Putin dines with Queen Beatrix at the Maritime Museum on Monday April 8th, thousands of protestors are expected to gather outside to express strong disapproval of Russia’s proposed anti-gay legislation.

Back in January, the Russian State Duma voted 388-1 in support of a bill that will make “promotion of homosexuality” – particularly by providing information to minors – a punishable offence. More recently there are reports of plans to ban adoption of Russian children by foreign gay couples. The anti-propaganda law is already in force in St. Petersburg and has had a profound effect on the LGBT community there.

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