A young bride and groom, attended by their families and members of the community, perform a series of rituals in preparation for their wedding.
Bronislava Nijinska's Les Noces was first performed by the Ballets Russes in 1923 at the Théâtre de la Gaîté, Paris. The Royal Ballet's version holds special claim to authenticity: Nijinska was the mentor and friend of Frederick Ashton – The Royal Ballet's founder choreographer. As a way of paying tribute to her, he invited Nijinska to stage Les Noces at Covent Garden in 1966. The production uses stark sets and costumes taken from Russian peasant dress, designed by Natalia Goncharova for the original.
Igor Stravinsky's modernist score draws on Russian folk traditions and features soloists, chorus, four pianos and percussion. Nijinska's striking choreography depicts the rituals of a wedding, from the consecration of the bride and groom to the celebratory wedding feast. The emphasis is as much on the continuity of tradition within a community as on the bride and groom. The corps de ballet provide a strong counterpoint to the soloists, as they dance in unison and create bold, sculptural shapes.
News and features
31 October 2013
With The Rite of Spring returning, we look at some of Stravinsky's other iconic ballet scores.