Stravinsky’s 1913 work is a powerful depiction of the sudden explosion of spring in his native Russia, nature at its most indomitable and people’s ancestral ways of living with it, including fertility rites and human sacrifice.
It’s lost none of its power in the century that followed its riotous Paris premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes; on the contrary, The Rite of Spring has provided inspiration to very many choreographers, as if every generation felt the need to rise anew to Stravinsky’s challenge.
One of the most visceral readings of The Rite of Spring is that of the late great German choreographer, Pina Bausch. Created in 1975, Bausch’s Rite goes straight to the heart of Stravinsky’s music. Danced on a stage covered in dark soil, it is telluric, pagan and ultimately devastating.
The Pina Bausch Foundation is strict as to whom it grants permission to perform the choreographer’s works; so, it was a major coup for Sadler’s Wells and Senegal’s École des Sables to be able to engage in a partnership with the Foundation for this exciting project.
This latest African production of Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring should have opened on 20 March in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, but just days before the premiere, it became clear that the Covid-19 pandemic was leading to lockdown and the closure of international borders.
So, no tour. Instead, the company decided to conduct their last rehearsal on the beach near their base at École des Sables in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal. Filmmaker Florian Heinzen-Ziob captured the rehearsal in a stunning film, giving audiences a glimpse into a production not yet seen on stages around the world.
Watching African dancers make Pina Bausch's Rite of Spring very much their own is mind-blowing. It's proof positive that the language of art transcends borders; and art works morph and acquire new layers of meaning as they enter into a symbiotic relationship with new cultures.
These dancers show themselves totally at ease with Bausch's very specific choreography; but in their interpretation you can discern the subtle influence of African dances, and that, in turn, leads you to re-evaluate Bausch's choreography. And danced on African sand, instead of dense European peat, this Rite points to spring in an ecology that's very different, but just as powerful, as dependent on ancestral, wild and indomitable forces.
Florian Heinzen-Ziob's film shows tremendous intelligence and sensitivity, particularly in the skilful mix of ensemble shots and close-up. The director's approach is not intrusive; it is, rather, very subtle in the way he directs the eye to certain scenes or details. When his camera closes in on the sacrificial victim as she is led to her climactic death by an implacable male figure. the close up intensifies the terror and inexorability of the coming sacrifice. .
This film is a remarkable achievement in so many ways; we couldn't recommend it highly enough.
Dancing at Dusk – A Moment with Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring will be available to rent throughout July for a token fee of £5.
Proceeds go towards supporting the artists, the future life of the production, and Sadler’s Wells.
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|What||Dancing at Dusk Review|
|Where||Online | MAP|
01 Jul 20 – 31 Jul 20, Available to rent on demand from 12:00:00