Dancing at Dusk: A Moment With Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring at Sadler’s Wells Online
Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring is a powerful choreography depicting a sacrificial ritual set to Stravinsky’s music. A group of women, gathered in a compact cluster, dance as if possessed by a deep sense of disquiet. The male dancers, similarly grouped, also move as one unit, and then divide and reconnect as they meet the female faction. One woman is selected to be the victim of the rite – her election is represented by a red dress that she is handed, and her sentence is to dance herself to death.
When Germaine Acogny, co-founder of the dance school École des Sables in Senegal, heard Stravinsky’s intense and urgent beats, she instantly thought of African rites. She worked in collaboration with the Pina Bausch Foundation, led by Pina’s son Salomon, and Sadler’s Wells to re-stage the 1975 seminal piece and set it in Africa. A group of dancers from 14 different African countries came together to rehearse the piece in Senegal, and the show was scheduled to premiere in March 2020 in Dakar, with a world tour to follow.
Sadly, the project was halted days before the opening night as the Covid-19 lockdown was enforced worldwide. The company had just enough time for one last rehearsal, which they decided to capture on film. Filmmaker Florian Heinzen-Ziob shot the piece, which was performed on a quiet beach at dusk. The atmospheric setting adds a special, magic touch to the choreography.
There are striking group compositions expressing confusion and anguish, and quieter passages depicting the women’s fear and fragility. As always with Bausch, the show is not viewed but rather experienced. One must enter it and be led by the emotions it awakens, by the gut sensations that lie beyond the realm of verbal expression and even beyond the traditional language of dance. In this version, The Rite Of Spring gains a sensual quality. The more visceral sequences emphasise the tribal quality that makes the dance timeless and connects it to the most ancient forms of movement.
While it is unfortunate that the show could not go ahead at this time, the video produced, and now available to watch online, is certainly a silver lining of this setback. Many people worldwide will now have the opportunity to access this valuable piece in a version that is both fierce and graceful, complemented by the natural energy of its beautiful open-air setting.
A small contribution will help the dance institutions involved, as well as the dancers and creative team, to continue providing valuable work.
Photo: Polyphem Filmproduktion
Dancing at Dusk: A Moment With Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring is available to view on the Sadler’s Wells website from 1st July until 31st July 2020. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.