When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot

Overview

The Russian artists Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky were popular in their time: Stravinsky for music, Nijinsky for dance. When their radically new ballet, The Rite of Spring, was first performed in Paris on May 29, 1913, the reaction was so polarized, there were fistfights and riots! Brilliant or disastrous, the performance marked the birth of modern music and dance. Stringer’s rhythmic text and gloriously inventive, color-rich paintings capture the wild and imaginative collaboration of composer and ...

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Overview

The Russian artists Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky were popular in their time: Stravinsky for music, Nijinsky for dance. When their radically new ballet, The Rite of Spring, was first performed in Paris on May 29, 1913, the reaction was so polarized, there were fistfights and riots! Brilliant or disastrous, the performance marked the birth of modern music and dance. Stringer’s rhythmic text and gloriously inventive, color-rich paintings capture the wild and imaginative collaboration of composer and choreographer. The fascinating author note includes photos of the dynamic duo and The Rite of Spring dancers.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Pamela Paul
A great number [of picture books] have been written about composers and musicians, and even about individual pieces of music. But not many look closely at the art of musical collaboration, and Stringer does that here with imaginative spark and dynamism…Stringer is primarily an illustrator, and a very good one. Animated spreads of composer and choreographer, dancer and musician, form an enchanting illustration of music composition. Pages of notation spring to life with swirls of color and movement.
Publishers Weekly
Stringer homes in on the joy of collaboration in this celebration of composer Stravinsky and dancer Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Acrylic paintings swoop and curl with the fluidity of music and dance, echoed in the stylistic leaps of Stringer’s prose: “Then Stravinsky met Nijinsky.... His piano pirouetted a puppet, his tuba leaped a loping bear, and his trumpet tah-tahed a twirling ballerina.” The repetition and disruption of shapes creates a kind of visual syncopation, and Stringer pulls in multiple references to cubism; after the ballet is ready to perform, the pair leads a procession of dancers and musicians to the theater, literally shaking up Paris: “The crowed poured into the streets when the curtain went down... wild with the night that brought something brand-new!” Stringer trusts readers with a challenging and exciting account of the transformative power of visionary, risk-taking art. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"This one will make kids want to sit down and listen to the music for themselves."
Booklist, starred review

"Music and dance made entertaining and joyous."
Kirkus, starred review

“With music education programs evaporating from classrooms across the country, picture books have had to assume the baton. . . Not many look closely at the art of musical collaboration, and Stringer does that here with imaginative spark and dynamism. . . It’s enough to make readers want to put down the book and turn on the music.”
New York Times Online

"Stringer trusts readers with a challenging and exciting account of the transformative power of visionary, risk-taking art."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Composed with much alliterative, musical language, and onomatopoeia, this narrative flows beautifully. . . This book would be the perfect accompaniment in music lessons exploring the 100th anniversary of the famous work, and may inspire young musicians to create their own and deinitely different work."
School Library Journal, starred review

Children's Literature - Barbara L. Talcroft
In time for the hundredth anniversary of the Ballets Russes's Rite of Spring, here is a celebration of Igor Stravinsky's score and Vaslav Nijinsky's choreography to commemorate the opening night in 1913 Paris, when the ballet caused a riot. Stringer has done considerable research (her depiction of Nijinsky appears based on a sketch of him in Jeux by Leon Bakst and a head by George Lepape from 1912). Stravinsky's dapper in a seersucker suit, while both are resplendent in white tie for the ballet's premiere. To create a good story for young readers, Stringer presents a joyful collaboration of equals, based on Nijinsky's dancing in Stravinsky's Petrouchka (choreographed by Michel Fokine), inspiring a mutual desire to create a ballet shocking and new. Throughout the book, each has an accompanying spirit—Stravinsky, a perky dachshund; Nijinsky, a sinuous cat. It was not really that simple: Stravinsky, intrigued by designer Nicolas Roerich's research, was quite capable of creating the score himself (in 1913, change was in the air), while Nijinsky, after a dismal flop with Jeux, was unable to communicate with his dancers and required an assistant from the Dalcroze School. (In one spread, Stringer does portray the dancers' confusion and the defection of a musician.) At a rehearsal, we briefly glimpse impresario Diaghilev with Roerich sketching costumes. The riotous performance (following contemporary accounts) is illustrated with swirling lines, outrageous 1913 fashions, and masses of fighting Parisians; Stringer's caricature of steadfast conductor Pierre Monteux rings true. Well, details can wait for young dance-lovers to grow up—Stringer captures the energy of the two protagonists and the shock of the new for audiences, using exciting designs from Bakst's work and even a setting based on Matisse's Red Studio. Her author's note explains more and will inspire research by true balletomanes. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—Composed with much alliterative, musical language, and onomatopoeia, this narrative flows beautifully, telling the story of the friendship and collaboration between composer Igor Stravinsky and dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Focusing on the changes to their work and personal styles that resulted from their meeting to the culmination of their efforts, the ballet The Rite of Spring, the story conveys their composition process in a lively, upbeat fashion, with a percussive vocabulary. This book would be the perfect accompaniment in music lessons exploring the 100th anniversary of the famous work, and may inspire young musicians to create their own and definitely different work. Children may be surprised to learn about the commotion the composition caused, and the riotous ballet is sure to catch their attention. Vibrantly colored illustrations, inspired by Matisse and Picasso, of the musical notes, instruments, and dancers depicted, enhance the tone of the story and complement the text well. A detailed note from the author, complete with photographs, provides interesting background information about Stravinsky, Nijinsky, and The Rite of Spring.—Alison Donnelly, Collinsville Memorial Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews
A composer and a choreographer collaborate on a 20th-century masterpiece and cause a riot. In 1913 Paris, two Russians, Igor Stravinsky the composer and Vaslav Nijinsky the dancer/choreographer, took the western European art world by storm when the Ballet Russes premiered The Rite of Spring. Each returned to his Russian roots for both music and movement, leaving far behind the melodic strains and gorgeous balletic movements of Swan Lake. The new sounds, more harsh and dissonant, and the new steps, more earthy and folkloric, left the audience both wildly cheering and jeering. Stringer winningly plays with the symmetry of the two names in her rhythmic text and dynamic page design. The vibrantly saturated colors of her paintings pulse with energy. Musical notes, figures rehearsing and boisterous crowds at the premiere fill the pages. Humorous details abound, notably an appealing dog and cat who watch the artistes create. Stringer also incorporates moments from Stravinsky's earlier ballet Petrouchka, which featured Nijinsky as the tragic puppet, as well as a full measure of onomatopoeia and visual references to contemporary painters. The music is familiar not only to concert goers, but also to fans of the fiery volcanoes and fearsome dinosaurs in Fantasia. Said Nijinsky to Stravinsky: "What an uproar and what a delight!" Music and dance made entertaining and joyous. (author's note, sources) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547907253
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 253,379
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

LAUREN STRINGER is the award-winning author and illustrator of Winter is the Warmest Season and the illustrator of many other picture books. She lives with her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Visit her at www.laurenstringer.com

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