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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people Ex-wife of John Lennon has died at her home in Spain
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Car Sales Executive - OTE £36,000

    £12500 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This established Wakefield Deal...

    Guru Careers: .NET Developers / Software Developers

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: our .NET Developers / Software Dev...

    Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

    £25,000 - £30,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a fantastic opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?