The Chosen One: Massine’s Choreographic Rite of Passage
The collaboration with Stravinsky and the process of rechoreographing Sacre gave Massine new directions for defining his choreographic voice
through developing his own movement vocabulary. In working with Stravinsky, Massine also developed his ideas of using counterpoint between the movement and music. Chosen by Diaghilev to replace Vaslav Nijinsky as leading dancer and choreographer, Massine did not have the bravura classical ballet technique of his predecessor, but he had a ‘spark’ on stage that captured Diaghilev’s attention. Mentored by Diaghilev in the collaborative process, Massine achieved a notable success with his early ballets, particularly Parade (1917), which had a scandalous premiere; La Boutique Fantasque (1919), which charmed audiences; and Le
Tricorne (1919), which was an instant success. With these and other successful ballets later in his career, Massine’s 1920 version of Le Sacre du printemps is often overlooked. Massine’s Sacre premiered in the same theatre as the original production, Théâtre Champs-Elysées, and it was the last ballet that Léonide Massine created for the Ballets Russes under Diaghilev’s tutelage. (He returned to choreograph two ballets a few years later.) He left the company shortly after the premiere and embarked on a long and remarkable choreographic career, using the tools that he had developed during his collaboration with Stravinsky. This paper will examine Léonide Massine’s choreography for Le Sacre du printemps, with an introduction to his movement vocabulary in his theory of composition and a discussion of the Massine-Stravinsky collaboration. The author worked with Léonide Massine as a dancer and choreographic assistant, and holds the Massine Diploma in Theory and Composition.