The complex music and violent dance steps depicting fertility rites first drew catcalls and whistles from the crowd. There were loud arguments in the audience between supporters and opponents of the work. These were soon followed by shouts and fistfights in the aisles. Chaos reigned for the remainder of the performance, and Stravinsky himself was so upset on account of its reception that he fled the theater in mid-scene, reportedly crying. Nijinsky had to stand on a chair shouting counts to the dancers who were unable to hear the orchestra.
The intensely rhythmic score and primitive scenario—a setting of scenes from pagan Russia—shocked audiences more accustomed to the demure conventions of classical ballet. Vaslav Nijinsky's choreography was a radical departure from classical ballet, with jerking angular movements left the audience bewildered and angry. The costumes were unflattering and the makeup was harsh. The most brilliant male dancer (possibly ever), Nijinsky could almost be called the father of modern dance, for this and other works he had choreographed.