In the final episode of this famous work of modern dance, set in primitive Russia, a maiden is chosen from a circle of her peers and begins her "Sacrificial Dance'' to the pounding rhythms of the orchestra. The artist's vigorous pencil strokes evoke a visual sensation of Stravinsky's music and capture the kinetic energy and emotion of the star dancer in the terrifying climax of the ballet. The maiden leaps in frenzy, her legs bent under her tunic, her arms flung forward, until the tribe's exhausted, sacrificial victim collapses and dies.
Stravinsky writes in An Autobiography that as early as 1910: ". . . I had a fleeting vision which came to me as a complete surprise, my mind at the moment being full of other things. I saw in imagination a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle, watched a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of spring. Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps. . . . In Paris I told Diaghileff about it, and he was at once carried away by the idea, though its realization was delayed by the following events."
Drawing at the Paris Opéra's revivals of Ballets Russes productions, first conducted by Pierre Monteux in Paris more than seventy-five years before, had an added significance for Roseman. "Stravinsky's confidence in Monteux," writes Roseman about The Rite of Spring, "is expressed in the composer's autobiography: 'The complexity of my score had demanded a great number of rehearsals, which Monteux had conducted with his usual skill and attention.' Of the riotous world premiere in Paris on May 29, 1913, Stravinsky writes of Monteux: 'It is still almost incredible to me that he actually brought the orchestra through to the end.' "
The northeastern shore and hillsides that border Lake Geneva have been a creative milieu for generations of writers, composers, and artists. Stravinsky, like his esteemed compatriot Tchaikovsky, who in 1877 took up residence in the lakeshore village of Clarens, also gained inspiration for his work in the beautiful region of Lavaux in Canton Vaud.
"The Rite of Spring, known equally by its French title Le Sacre du Printemps, was given its world premiere in Paris in 1913, with Pierre Monteux conducting. The Ballets Russes presented The Rite of Spring in five programs in Paris during May and June and four performances that summer in London. Thereafter, Nijinsky's choreography of the ballet was no longer included in further programs of the Ballets Russes, which was due partly to the estrangement between Diaghilev and Nijinsky as well as the choreography, controversial in its day.
Male Dancer, 1994, (fig. 5), composed with a strong diagonal placement of the figure, is a dynamic image of a bearded tribesman rushing forward, his arms raised high above his head. Roseman depicts the patriarchal figure in profile with forceful, graphic strokes like chiseled contours of an ancient bas-relief. The triangular shape of the conical hat is repeated as a leitmotif in the description of the figure's raised arms and the heavy, belted tunic that falls in geometric folds over the dancer's legs.
The strong, diagonal composition reinforces the forward movement of the imposing figures. With a fluidity of nuanced pencil lines, accented by dark strokes, parallel hatching, and detailed rendering of the men's faces, Roseman describes the action and conveys the austerity of these tribal patriarchs.
The Rite of Spring is divided into two parts, the total duration of which runs about thirty-six to forty minutes without an intermission. An Introduction, which begins with a haunting, bassoon solo in a high register, leads into Part I, titled "The Adoration of the Earth.'' A series of primitive rituals are carried out by the tribesmen and women from youth to old age, portrayed by dancers of the corps de ballet. Part II, titled "The Sacrifice,'' concerns the sacrifice of a young maiden, the Chosen One, who is forced to dance to her death.
* Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris - Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra,
(text in French and English), Marie-Claude Pietragalla, "Quelques Mots des Danseurs / A Few Words from the Dancers,"
(Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1996), p. 13.
2. Igor Stravinsky, An Autobiography, (London: Calder & Boyers Ldt, 1975), p. 31.
3. Ibid., p. 3.
4. Ibid., p. 4.
5. Ibid., p. 43.
6. Roseman did a drawing of the octogenarian Maestro, who, granting the young artist's request to autograph his drawing,
included a personal dedication: "To Stanley, with my best friendship, Pierre Monteux.''
7. Stravinsky, An Autobiography, pp. 46, 47.
8. John Canarina, Pierre Monteux, Maître, (New Jersey: Amadeus Press, 2003), p. 43.
9. Stanley Roseman - Dessins sur la Danse à l'Opéra de Paris - Drawings on the Dance at the Paris Opéra, p. 12.
10. The French title for the opening segment of Part II is "Cercles mystérieux des Adolescentes.'' A standard English title is
"Mystic Circle of the Adolescents.'' On an RCA recording of Le Sacre du Printemps by the Boston Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Pierre Monteux in 1951, the title of the segment is "Mystic Circles of the Young Girls.''
11. Marie-Claude Pietragalla, "Quelques Mots des Danseurs," p. 13.
12. Bibliothèque Nationale de France, p. 12.
Two Male Dancers, 1991, presented below, (fig. 6), is composed with a bold use of pictorial space in depicting the two crouching figures in a dance movement from The Rite of Spring. Combining fluid, strong strokes of a graphite pencil and wonderful, geometric abstractions, Roseman creates a compelling image of two male dancers in that celebrated work of modern dance. The young, pagan tribesmen, their heads bowed low and arms outstretched, touch the ground in their adoration of the earth.
Two bearded Elders, participating in the solemn, spring ritual, are portrayed in the impressive drawing Two Male Dancers, 1995, (fig. 7, above). The tribesmen, similarly attired in heavy, belted tunics and conical hats, are hunched forward, their faces partially covered by their raised, folded arms. The effective mis en page establishes the perspective of the two figures in pictorial space. Roseman renders the figures with a gradation of pencil lines; dark strokes emphasize contours and accent the facial features. The two Elders, moving forward in unison with weighty steps and intense expressions, convey a collective tribal consciousness of the impending sacrifice.
The danseuses portraying the young maidens, including the Chosen One, wear loose-fitting tunics and head bands with circular ear coverings. In the drawings of Marie-Claude Pietragalla as the sacrificial victim, Roseman has indicated the ear-coverings, each rendered with a circular stroke of the pencil, thereby incorporating in the drawings a leitmotif of the circle suggestive of the geometric pattern in the choreography of Part II with the "Mystic Circles of the Young Girls'' and the "Sacrificial Dance.''
"Within those 'mystic circles' the danseuses who portray a group of young maidens of the tribe took their places on stage. The male dancers in their roles as Elders waited in the wings. Having re-sharpened my pencils and taking a place in the wings from where to draw the cast on stage, I opened my drawing book as the curtain rose and resumed drawing. To Stravinsky's haunting melody of the 'Mystic Circles of the Young Girls,'  and Nijinsky's radical choreography, the maidens dance round and round and in and out of the circles. One of the maidens' fate is determined by her stumbling and falling to the ground, and consequently she is thrust into the center, where as the Chosen One, she is condemned to dance to her death.''
Marie-Claude Pietragalla, 1994, (fig. 10), is an impressive drawing with subtle gradation of lines that evolve to dark contours accentuating the dancer's movement with her right leg raised high and bent at the knee, shoulders hunched, head inclined low, her left leg supporting the downward turn of her torso. The bodily contraction of the dancer and the sense of the gravitational pull of the earth anticipate the choreographic development of modern dance.