By Patricia Boccadoro
PARIS, 23 SEPTEMBER 2013 To celebrate its hundredth
anniversary, several danced versions of The Rite of Spring were
presented at the Theatre des Champs-Elysées in Paris this spring, from the
scandalous Nijinsky work created in collaboration with Igor Stravinsky
and premiered at the very same theatre on the 29th May, 1913, to the
landmark 1975 contemporary staging of the work by Pina Bausch, when she
covered the stage with damp earth. And although countless choreographers
have been seduced by both the music and the theme, these two outstanding
versions have rarely been surpassed.
Prior to their series of Kontakthof at the Theatre de la Ville
in June, sold out months before, the Tanztheater Wuppertal gave three
performances of the German choreographers Sacre to wildly
enthusiastic spectators, some of whom had bought seats for all three
evenings. At a cost of 89 euros per seat, for 35 minutes of dance, this
was no mean undertaking. Sadly, many less fortunate found themselves left
outside the theatre begging for places.
The evening began with a 1987 documentary showing Bausch coaching one
of her dancers in the role of the chosen one. The choreographer, cigarette
in hand, an airmans bonnet on her head and clad in heavy rubber boots
moved with incredible grace and musicality through the steps,
demonstrating precisely what she wanted.
Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of
It was a documentary in direct contrast to all that has been said about
her in recent years. The young dancer was explicitly told what to do and
how to do it. Maybe the dancers were, to all appearances, given greater
freedom in later years, but this Sacre is all Bausch as she moved away
from the imagery of pagan Russia inherent in Stravinskys score,
choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky which so shocked at the time.
This timeless version portrays an elemental struggle for life, for
survival, with repetitious gut- wrenching movements leaving the audience
itself gasping for breath. Barbaric rites of sacrifice are played out on a
vast expanse of dirt, the soil clinging to the dancers sweat-covered
bodies as they dance till they drop, the large cast sweeping over and
across the stage in waves, until they collapsed from physical and mental
The groupings were brilliant and the dancers magnificent in this
violent, powerful work which had the audience totally in its grip.
Intense, brutal and bestial, the company under the ever-watchful eye of
their dedicated co-director, Dominique Mercy, gave it everything.
The Maryinsky Theatre interpreted Nijinskys version, Sasha Waltz and
company presented their version, and at the end of the month the Akram
Khan Company present yet another very different vision for 11
dancers entitled iTMOi (In the mind of Igor), set to a score not
by Stravinsky, but by Nitin Sawney, Jocelyn Pook, and Ben Frost. Khans
creation lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Patricia Boccadoro writes on dance in Europe. She has
contributed to The Guardian, The Observer and Dancing
Times and was dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on
Rudolf Nureyev. Based in Paris, Patricia Boccadoro is the dance editor for
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