Hidden Europe: The other side of Paris

First rites on the Right Bank

Those looking to depart from convention in Paris usually head for the Left Bank. No one goes to Avenue des Champs-Elysées, on the Right Bank, looking for revolution. But, cast back 100 years ago this week, and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées was the venue for some radical departures from choreographic convention.

The theatre is actually some way from the grand thoroughfare that shares its name. It stands near the foot of Avenue Montaigne, which cuts south-west from Champs-Elysées towards the river. The Avenue Montaigne is not regular Hidden Europe terrain – so much so that I felt decidedly out of place as I walked there recently. This is Louis Vuitton territory, a place for the chic set that knows its Dior from its Bulgari.

The theatre opened in spring 1913. It is an extraordinary building, one that presciently anticipates what later came to be known as Art Deco – although it was not until a dozen years later that the Swiss architect Le Corbusier gave a name to the architectural genre. For many Parisians, the assertive symmetry and reinforced concrete of the exterior were an affront. But, however disquieted they might have been by the building's outside, the citizens of the French capital were even more incensed by what went on inside.

By 1913, Parisians had grown to love the saison russe. Each spring since 1909, the Ballets Russes had performed in the capital, stealing the hearts of its citizens. Critics applauded the primitive energy of Diaghilev's dancers. Here was a touch of the east on the Paris stage. Suddenly, there were Ballets Russes perfumes which added a new dimension to Paris scentscapes. Scheherazade-style pantaloons and even Cossack sabres became part of Parisian haute couture.

The 1913 season of the Ballets Russes was staged at the new Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Nijinsky's Faune had raised a few eyebrows when it was premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet on 29 May 1912. A year later to the day, Le Sacre du Printemps had its first performance at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

Every aspect of The Rite of Spring was immensely provocative. Stravinsky's music, Roerich's costumes and set, but, above all, the on-stage antics of the lead dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky incensed the audience. Russia had breached the bounds of Parisian convention, and a riot erupted within the theatre.

As we approach the centenary of the premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps, it is good to remember that, even around the sedate boulevards of the 8th arrondissement, there is scope for revolution. The Théâtre des Champs-Elysées is still going strong and will mark the centenary on 29 May with a performance of Le Sacre du Printemps that recalls Nijinsky's 1913 choreography in combination with a new staging by the choreographer Sasha Waltz.

More information: theatrechampselysees.fr

Hidden Europe is a print and online collection of writing that reflects the Continent's diverse cultures and landscapes. You can subscribe through hiddeneurope.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
voicesBryony Beynon: This is something every woman can relate to
Arts and Entertainment
film

News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is reported to be in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange for Marvel although the casting has not yet been confirmed
film
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
fashion

World Beard and Moustache Championships held last week

News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Copycat culture: the Chateau Zhang Laffitte in China, top, and the building which inspired it, in Paris, bottom
architectureReplicas of Western landmarks are springing up in unlikely places
Sport
Rolando Aarons watches as his effort finds the corner of the Manchester City goal to give Newcastle the lead
footballManchester City 0 Newcastle 2: Holders crash out on home turf
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager - Commercial Cable & Wire - UK

    £60,000 - £75,000: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the major Aer...

    ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain