Perspectives: Newsletter of the College of Arts & Sciences

A Century of the Mighty Rite

New York Times headline about "The Consecration of Spring"
The New York Times reported on the hostile
reception to "The Consecration of Spring" in its
June 7, 1913 edition. Image from Wikimedia
Commons.

When The Rite of Spring debuted in 1913, a riot ensued.  The audience was enraged by the provocative ballet performed by Ballets Russes, which featured dissonant music by Igor Stravinsky and modernist choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky.  A century later, The Rite of Spring remains a touchstone in the arts world.  To celebrate the centennial of this groundbreaking work, the UW will offer a series of events—both performances and lectures—throughout spring 2013.

“There is a fair bit of debate about whether it was Stravinsky's score or Nijinsky's choreography that caused the riot,” says Betsy Cooper, director of the Dance Program, the College’s interim divisional dean of arts, and Thomas and Margo G. Wyckoff Endowed Faculty Fellow. “I think it is fair to say that it was both. The Rite of Spring, with its percussive and relentlessly driven score, no doubt disturbed the haute bourgeoisie audience that attended that night, but then imagine the added shock of a group of ballet dancers, clad in bearskin, simple cloth sheaths, long braids, and stark makeup that made them look faintly like Plains Indians. There were no pointe shoes or pink slippers in sight. Dancers stood pigeon toed, stamped their feet, shook, and quaked, stood hunched over. It was, as one critic stated, perceived as ‘a crime against grace.’ It looked nothing like ballet or a stage of ballet dancers. It was cataclysmic in every sense. The themes of Rite were equally shocking—the notion that in order for the group to survive, a sacrifice must be made.”

Despite its rocky debut, The Rite of Spring proved to have staying power. Through the years it has been performed dozens of times with new choreography exploring the same themes through Stravinsky’s score.

“The score is iconic and brilliant,” says Cooper. “It begs to be worked with. The themes of birth, sacrifice, and regeneration are universal and primal. And the history of the premiere and the ensuing mental breakdown of Nijinksy adds to the allure of the work. I suppose one could also liken it to a sort of artistic Mount Everest. Given the notoriety of the original production, of which there were only seven performances, it is not surprising that other choreographers would want to assume the challenge of making a great Rite."

"I suppose one could also liken it to a sort of artistic Mount
Everest. Given the notoriety of the original production...it is not
surprising that other choreographers would want to
assume the challenge of making a great Rite."

 

 

 

 

 

For the centennial celebration, UW Dance Professor Jürg Koch is choreographing The Rite of Spring for the Dance Program’s January concert (see related Perspectives story). Also in January, UW World Series (UWWS) will present Compagnie Marie Chouinard’s The Rite of Spring with the UW Symphony Orchestra performing Stravinsky’s score. In May, UWWS will present acclaimed pianist Jon Kimura Parker performing his own transcription of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. The Rite Centennial Lecture Series, also presented by UWWS and featuring Dance Program and School of Music faculty and graduate students, will run throughout spring 2013.

For more about the UW events planned for The Rite of Spring's 100th anniversary, read on.

 

Performances

UW Dance: Faculty Dance/Collaborations

Friday-Saturday, January 18-19, 2013
7:30 pm, Meany Hall

Rehearsal for Jurg Koch's The Rite of Spring

Stravinsky's iconic The Rite of Spring is one of three ambitious pieces to be performed at the Faculty Dance/Collaborations concert presented by the UW Dance Program. The piece is choreographed by Dance Professor Jürg Koch to Stravinsky's score, with costumes designed by Sarah Nash Gates, executive director of the School of Drama. Two disklaviers (programmable pianos) programmed by DXARTS staffer Josh Parmenter (MA, PhD, Music Composition, 2002, 2005) and School of Music doctoral students Shih-Wei Lo and Anna Stachurska, will provide accompaniment. Other pieces to be performed include José Limón's tribute to Isadora Duncan, Dances for Isadora, with music performed by School of Music lecturer Dainius Vaicekonis; and the premiere of A Small Piece of the Story, choreographed by Professor Jennifer Salk, a Donald E. Petersen Endowed Faculty Fellow, with music performed by Music Professor Melia Watras and Seattle Symphony's Kimberly Russ with costumes by Sarah Nash Gates. For more on this event, read the Perspectives feature story in this issue. For tickets, visit www.meany.org.


UW World Series: Compagnie Marie Chouinard

Compagnie Marie Chouinard performing Le Sacre du Printemps. Photo by Marie Chouinard.

Thursday-Saturday January 24-26, 2013
8 pm, Meany Hall


Montreal artist Marie Chouinard has been a notable presence on world stages for more than two decades. This UW World Series performance in celebration of the 100th anniversary of The Rite of Spring features a partnership between Compagnie Marie Choiunard and the UW School of Music, as the company performs Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) with the UW Symphony Orchestra. The program also includes 24 Preludes set to the music of Chopin, performed live by pianist Brooks Tran, a UW School of Music doctoral student. Due to partial nudity, the performance is recommended for mature audiences. A 20-minute pre-show lecture will be presented each night at 7:10 pm by former company member Louis Gervais. For tickets, visit www.uwworldseries.org.

 

UW World Series: Jon Kimura Parker

Jon Kimura Parker

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
7:30 pm, Meany Hall


Insightful and energetic Jon "Jackie" Kimura Parker is one of today's most sought-after pianists. His incredible showmanship, coupled with a fine-tuned attention to detail, is a signature of his illustrious performing career. Parker's Meany Hall program includes his own exciting transcription of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.
Tickets: www.uwworldseries.org


The Rite Centennial Lecture Series


The Rite Centennial Lecture Series will explore how the premiere of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring has had a lasting impact on Western culture and aesthetics, from the original Nijinsky choreography performed by Ballets Russes, and subsequent reconstructions and re-imaginations of this ballet, to today's composers and their own revolutionary visions for the future of music. Lectures and demonstrations will be presented by UW Dance Program and School of Music faculty and graduate students in partnership with the UW World Series. Additional related lectures will be presented by other dance scholars. All lectures are free and open to the public. For more information, visit ArtsUW at www.artsuw.org.

The Reconstruction of Nijinsky's The Rite of Spring

Friday, January 11, 2013
7 pm, Henry Art Gallery auditorium


Watch a screening of a one-hour PBS documentary, The Search for Nijinsky's Rite of Spring, which explores the historical significance of The Rite of Spring and subsequent reconstruction by the Joffrey Ballet in 1987. Q&A with Richard Karpen, director of the UW School of Music, and Betsy Cooper, director of the Dance Program and interim divisional dean of arts, will follow the screening.

Martha Carter from Compagnie Marie Chouinard

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
5 pm, Meany Hall Dance Studio 266


In this Dance Research Symposium Lecture, scholar and innovator Martha Carter from Compagnie Marie Chouinard shares her research and practice and talks about the process of recreation of The Rite of Spring by Marie Chouinard. The lecture is offered in partnership with the UW Dance Program.

The Rite, Then and Now

Friday, February 15, 2013
7 pm, Henry Art Gallery auditorium


Dance Program faculty members Jürg Koch and Betsy Cooper discuss The Rite of Spring over the years and share film clips of influential versions of The Rite. Koch shares his experience choreographing his own version of The Rite of Spring for the UW faculty dance concert, premiering on January 18 at Meany Hall.

Music of Today with Huck Hodge

Thursday, March 21, 2013
7 pm, Henry Art Gallery auditorium

School of Music professor Huck Hodge demonstrates his unorthodox approach to sonic art through the use of sound-making toys and the repurposing of acoustic instruments. In this lecture/performance, he will also demonstrate how seemingly unmusical noises (satellite chatter, ambulance sirens, cell phone radiation, short-wave radio transmissions) can be transformed into tapestries of immense sonic beauty.

Music of Today with Abby Aresty

Thursday, April 25, 2013
7 pm, Henry Art Gallery auditorium


Abby Aresty, a UW School of Music graduate student, shares her most recent work in which she investigates the role of breath in music through creative manipulations of a performer's relationship to her own breath.

Music of Today with Cuong Vu

Thursday, May 16, 2013
7 pm, Henry Art Gallery auditorium


Cuong Vu and his guests will perform and discuss the avant-garde, free improvisation, and experimentation/innovation he uses to create his forward-looking music.

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