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April 24, 2017 – MCAT CARS Passage
Question: What is your summary of the author’s main ideas. Post your own answer in the comments before reading those made by others.
Igor Stravinksy’s “The Rite of Spring” (“Le Sacre du printemps”) caused a scandal when it premiered in Paris in 1913. It began, as no other composition ever had, on a high bassoon that weirdly descended the scale. The piece was ferocious, with odd rhythms and an apparent irreverence for melody. It was accompanied by Vaslav Nijinsky’s angular, confrontational choreography for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which somehow completed the unwelcome package.
Stravinsky famously said he was simply “the vessel through which `Le Sacre’ passed”. The thing itself, however, had the effect of making many in that first Paris audience feel ill. Nothing like it had ever been seen or heard before. Yet the score has since become a fairly standard part of an orchestra’s repertoire. It is fantastically percussive and, in its tonal slides and unexpected instrumental phrases, still strange on the ear. Indeed, many say it is too complex to share the stage. The story it was first created to tell—of a virgin girl who must be sacrificed to save the earth—is enough to daunt many choreographers. That has not, however, stopped some from trying to harness the work.
Pina Bausch, a groundbreaking German choreographer who died in 2009, set a high bar with her “Frühlingsopfer” in 1975. Kenneth MacMillan, Maurice Béjart and Michael Clark also had striking versions to their names. But for the piece’s 100th anniversary, it seemed a new creation was called for. Michel Franck, director of Paris’s Théâtre Champs-Elysées, where “Rite” first premiered, tapped Sasha Waltz, another innovative German choreographer, for the honour. Her “Sacre”, first performed in 2013 to acclaim, will have its London premiere at Sadler’s Wells on November 11th.
“I felt it was a huge responsibility to create a new `Sacre’,” Ms Waltz says. “The weight of history” is inescapable when re-making Stravinsky’s classic, she admits. The staging would also mark the 20th anniversary of her Berlin-based dance company, which upped the stakes. Choreographing the work took about a year. Valery Gergiev conducted the first performance of “Sacre” at the Mariinsky Theatre—with the Mariinsky’s ballet dancers—in St Petersburg in May 2013, and then in Paris with Ms Waltz’s own troupe two weeks later.
Performing a brand-new piece with completely different sets of performers a mere weeks apart was dizzying. Two cultures were at work. The Mariinsky dancers are a classical troupe, with the strict discipline that ballet involves. Ms Waltz approaches dance more fluidly, seeking dancers for her company who have tremendous athletic and expressive skills but little or no classical training. She argues that people who can move well and imaginatively can create genuine, compelling dance theatre.
While in St Petersburg Ms Waltz communicated a certain methodological freedom. “The Mariinsky dancers really opened up and took to my language,” Ms Waltz recalls. “The `Sacre’ done by my group is wilder and rawer. But the choreography for both is the same.” Throughout, 28 dancers collide, intersect and then break apart with lyrical intensity. They perform against a bare stage and in simple, flowing costumes. Yet a century on, Ms Waltz has ensured her “Rite” still has the power to shock: the elected victim who must dance her way to death is stripped naked.
At the start of the 21st century, Sasha Waltz was the sexiest dance-maker in Europe. Her ingenious, and often very nude, trilogy—“Körper”, “S” and “noBody”, a spectacular investigation into the nature, needs and fragilities of the human body—was one of the most exciting mixes of surrealist theatre and edgy choreography in modern dance. She used objects and textures, such as plates, old clothes, paint and skis, for her dancers to play and interact with. Her performers spoke and argued, ran and jumped. Everything on stage looked like an obstacle course, yet the choreography somehow cohered.
“Sacre” is uncluttered. The Waltz signature is all there, with highly physical group formations and sudden, sharp changes. But for all its familiarity, it is also very new. “Every piece I do,” she says, “has its own colour. I wanted to make this one neither too `steppy’, nor too floaty and free. The ensemble is large, yet Stravinsky’s score is so precise and rhythmically compact. The dancers really needed something to hold on to.”
Adapted from Economist.
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This was an article on Music.
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MCAT CARS Instructor.