THE RITE OF SPRING: STAGING OR POSSESSION?
A full-length documentary film
By Etienne Aussel and Valérie Gabail
2013. Exactly a century ago the première of the Rite of Spring was enacted at the Paris Theatre des Champs-Elysées. Since then, numerous choreographers have continued to stage the production either with the intention of reproducing it as near as possible to the original or by proposing a very personal version of it.
Today, the “vision of this sacred pagan rite”, which inspired Nicolas Roerich for the scenography, Igor Stravinsky for the musical score and Vaslav Nijinsky for the choreography, continues to fire the imagination, drawing artists and audience under its spell.
Any choreographer on the threshold of producing the Rite of Spring will unfailingly be challenged by strains of music that calls to mind a primeval dance. An exciting venture, one which requires the choreographer to find his own way in creating a dance and putting on stage something fundamental, something primitive, an underlying element that could have existed in his previous productions but now needs to be defined, made to surge forth from his inner self.
By its composition and the history of its creation, the music of the Rite rouses the image of a ritual.
Yet, is it really a ritual, or the representation of one? What do artists make of it? And how do they go about it? What is the logic behind their choice, and how can it be adapted into a specific aesthetic form?
The art historian Emmanuel Daydé puts forward a very personal interpretation of Stravinsky’s work by comparing it to a solemn, sacrificial rite. This sacrifice, beyond time and space, is represented in the painting of stage designer, Nicolas Roerich who, as an archaeologist enthralled by ancient civilisations, conceived the original idea for the ballet.
“I remember how the audience at the Première hissed and booed so loudly we couldn’t hear a thing. Who knows, perhaps just then they were in a state of exultation, gripped with the same emotion as primitive peoples. Yet, this wild primitivism had nothing to do with the sophisticated primitivism of our ancestors for whom the rhythm, the hallowed symbol and the subtlety of the tempo were solemn and sacred concepts”.
The anthropologist Michael Houseman currently investigates the complex relationships between rite and performance, between rite and dance, notably the importance of the latter within rituals. The Rite of Spring could be a case study among others and may be approached like many other contemporary works. And yet...
In 1913 the performance, a masterpiece of musical dynamism, created a scandal. As for Nijinsky’s choreography, although it never really found favour, it nevertheless paved the way for contemporary dance as we know it today. It seems that the approach to this work would always be complex for an artist, resulting in an ambivalent performance ever on a tightrope between performance and ritual, between staging and possession.
Producing the Rite is invariably a new choreographic challenge and making a success of it is something like a mythical wager. As for Stravinsky’s music, it brings to mind a memento mori, which translates in substance: “Remember that you must die”. After all, is it not the very nature of a rite to evoke this questioning?
The Rite of Spring incites the choreographer to reflect deeply and to sound the very source of his art. But what sensitive and extra-sensitive reasons motivate this introspection?
Our questions on what makes this work so singular will find an echo in a rehearsal room, during an enactment on stage, or in a concert hall and will be scrutinized through the critical appraisal, brought about by anthropological studies and during working sessions with dancers, choreographers, instrumentalists and conductors.
Choreographers and musical directors will expound their vision of the piece through working sessions with their performers. Further thoughts arising from the authors’ fascination for this work, nurtured by reviews and anthropological studies, will attempt to answer some of our questions or help us to envisage this mysterious rite by reconsidering its significance within the panorama of contemporary dance in 2013.
Approached as outlined, this piece will be like an open window shedding light on our perception of art, on the performance, the show and the dance.
THE CHOREOGRAPHERS PRESENTATION:
The film ushers us through the most important and striking choreographies of the Rite in these recent years. We find those of Jean-Claude Gallotta, Olivier Dubois, including Sasha Waltz’s upcoming creation for the Theatre des Champs- Elysees in 2013.
Every choreographer has a “Rite” in him. Jean-Claude Gallotta’s is etched with a compass on a schoolboy’s desk. As a teenager, still strapped tightly into the grey smock worn in his depressing boarding school, the future choreographer listened to his music teacher talking about Igor Stravinsky, the Russian Ballet, Nijinski and the “scandal” on the first night (at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées on 29 May 1913), and heard the work for the first time on an old, worn-out Teppaz record player. Slumped on his wooden desk, he “fell into a daydream”, as he says today. He can still remember how he was carried away by the images: seraphic figures, sensual shadows, tortured bodies, forbidden awakenings, unexplained agitation and disturbing palpitations.
Olivier Dubois :
"PRÊT À BAISER"
With Olivier Dubois and one dancer-interpret.
Musical arrangements: François Caffenne, d'après "Le Sacre du Printemps" d'Igor Stravinsky
Duration: 50 min, Production COD, Coproduction Le Centquatre Paris.
Stravinsky: Rite of Spring centenary celebrations
May brings the centenary of the premiere of Stravinsky's iconic The Rite of Spring, with worldwide celebrations on the dance stage and in the concert hall. Dance companies and orchestras around the world are giving performances in honour the centenary of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (Le sacre du printemps) which is celebrated on 29 May 2013.
In Paris Attention focuses on Paris where the premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes resulted in a legendary riot with rival audience factions acclaiming or denigrating the ballet’s primitivist break from 19th century tradition. The Parisian celebrations at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées total 14 performances of the Rite in various guises, opening on the centenary day itself with a visit by the Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre. Valery Gergiev conducts the original choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky in its recreation by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, followed by a new choreography by Sasha Waltz.
THE FILM TEAM:
Valérie Gabail and Etienne Aussel met on the 2006 production of George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess, put on by the Montalvo-Hervieu company. Valérie created her own production company, Surimpressions in 2011, and produced a choreographic fiction film on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at the Turku Music Festival in partnership with the conductor François-Xavier Roth and with Etienne Aussel for filming and editing. Late in 2011, they both decided to work together on the script and production of two documentary movies.
A video director and independent documentary director, as well as cameraman, editor and assistant director, Etienne Aussel’s technical and artistic competence is geared, since 1999, to audio-visual projects. His activity encompasses the realisation and editing of creative documentary films, as well as archive and video footage for contemporary dance companies, a work of image creations for the stage, dance, opera video installations, script and different collaborations.
Having spent ten years working with the José Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu at the Centre Chorégraphique National de Créteil et du Val-de-Marne (in charge of the filming crew at the Opéra de Lyon for the opera Porgy & Bess), he decided in 2009 to make his own films and to explore other artistic realms, to perfect his skills in audio-visual and computing tools for live performances, and more specifically to develop documentary filmmaking following the approach of direct cinema through training at the Ateliers Varan (school founded by Jean Rouch).
Creation of stage photography and international tours : un Nioc de Paradis : 1999 / Variation au Paradis (Opening of the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, Palais des Festivals) Récréation primitive (Primitive recreation) 2001 / Babelle Heureuse : 2002 / Les Paladins : 2004 Théâtre du Châtelet production (on tour London, Shanghai, Tokyo / on danse : 2006 : Porgy & Bess : 2008 Opéra de Lyon production / The Rite of Spring : 2011 Turku Music Festival, Finland.
Video installations : Effigies : 2011, broadcast at the Centre Nationale de la Danse at Pantin, October to November 2012.
Direction of documentary films:
Tour de Babelle (Tower of Babel) (57’) 2004 : (broadcast on Mezzo musical channel, Lagardère group, La Générale de production.)
Cartes postales chorégraphiques (Choreographic postcards) for Dominique Hervieu’s Francofffonies : 2006 (12 short films broadcast on TV5, danced duos. Senso films production.)
Rosalind Crisp, L’espace entre les espaces (Space in-between spaces): 2009, film directed for the Ateliers Varan.
Mowa (52’) and Autour de Tassiga (52’) (Around Tassiga) : 2010, l’Harmattan DVD editions.
Regards (23’) L’Ermitage production Jean Reboul – Conseil générale de l’Isère, broadcasting in progress for film festivals, theme on handicaps: 2012.
Multi-camera coverage for contemporary choreographs (Rosalind Crisp, Claire Jenny, Nasser Martin-Gousset, Alban Richard...)
From early on, the hallmark of the French soprano’s career has been that of eclecticism and pluridisciplinarity. Valérie Gabail began with vocal jazz at age 15, then musicals, before turning towards Baroque music, a speciality for which she is widely acknowledged. Spotted by Marc Minkowski, she performed next with ensembles such as Les Arts Florissants/W. Christie, Les Talens Lyriques/C.Rousset, l’Ensemble Mattheus/J.C.Spinosi, as well as l’Orchestre National de France, le Philharmonique de Radio France, dealing with later and varied repertoires that gave her the opportunity to work alongside conductors such as Charles Dutoit, Michel Plasson, John Nelson, Kazushi Ono...
While performing at the most prestigious European venues for lyrical productions where she developed her taste, she realised that the stage, allied to the visual and theatrical aspect of the world she mixed with, had become a personal and vital issue. The year 2006 was a turning point with her nomination as “Lyric Revelation of the Year” at the Victoires de la Musique, and her position as artistic associate of the Dance company Montalvo-Hervieu for George Gershwin’s opera Porgy & Bess. This highly enriching experience continued for three years and, in parallel with her activity as a musician, she confirmed and multiplied her incursions into new repertoires, which were both transgender and experimental. Her artistic partners are, among others, the Finnish film director Marita Liulia, the composer Kaija Saariaho, and the rock guitarist Olivier Mellano for the disc La chair des Anges (The Flesh of Angels/ Naïve), which was an invaluable collaboration repeated in a second opus with Naïve, for a world-wide creation at the Transmusicales de Rennes in December 2012.
In 2011, she created her own cinematographic company, Surimpressions, and produced a choreographic fiction movie on Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, which she created for the Turku Music Festival. As well as Etienne Aussel, she followed the approach of direct cinema through training at the Ateliers Varan (school founded by Jean Rouch), and released a short movie, TABLE RASE, on drug addictions and treatement through abstinence.
LUDIVINE LARGE-BESSETTE (Cinematographer)
site web: http://ludilb.wix.com/largebessette
TEASER Rite of Spring (English)Vimeo - THE RITE OF SPRING: STAGING OR POSSESSION? A full-length documentary film By Etienne Aussel and Valérie Gabail 2013. Exactly a century ago the première of the...