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The Primal Precision of The Rite of Spring at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

The Power Of The Men In The Rite Of Spring (photo By Maarten Vanden Abeele)

The 2024 Season of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center starts with a dynamic triumph in an epic African restaging of Pina Bausch’s revolutionary ballet.

By John Lavitt

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 02-12-2024

Taking the incredible music of Igor Stravinsky to the next level of realization, The Rite of Spring by the late Pina Bausch of the Wuppertal Dance Theatre is a triumph of 20th-century dance. Clémentine Deluy, Jo Ann Endicott, and Jorge Puerta Armenta present a primal restaging of The Rite of Spring at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Led by a powerful and dynamic African ensemble, the performance was an intoxicating experience precisely rendered.

Writing about the original version of the dance in an interview with Clémentine Deluy, Claire Sawers of fest describes the origin of the piece:

“Bausch’s groundbreaking version of The Rite of Spring premiered in 1975 with an intense, exhilarating score by Stravinsky. Dancers are barefoot on a peat floor, acting out a grueling, primal ritual between men and women. It’s a study of misogyny and an urgent battle of the sexes where one young woman must become ‘The Chosen One’, dancing herself to death. ‘How would you dance if you knew you were going to die?’, Bausch asked her dancers. Her work was famously informed by relationships and trauma, the back and forth of human interactions, the suffering and repetition and joy.”

At the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, an all-African ensemble of over twenty dancers takes on Bausch’s masterpiece with unmatched precision and energy. Coming from a vast range of African countries — Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Mozambique, Mali, Kenya, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — the dancers represent the best of the best. Despite such talent, creating such a primal expression of movement with such precision takes abundant work.

The Passionate Expression Of The Women In The Rite Of Spring (Photo By Maarten Vanden Abeele)

Indeed, the rehearsal directors of the work need to be congratulated for their dedication and determination. Dancing on a peat floor that filled the auditorium with a primeval smell and feel, the dancers become one with the music. Every movement is timed to Stravinsky’s score as the bodies become visual instruments. Beyond that connection, the intensity and sexuality expressed on stage are almost overwhelming. Taking our breath away, we behold a visceral conflict between the masculine and the feminine, asking why desire goes hand-in-hand with domination. Why is control, as opposed to freedom, the definition of primal sexuality?

If you want to see what modern dance is about, please find a future opportunity to see Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring. The African cast takes the piece to another level of realization. Indeed, it balances exquisite precision with primal expression at a level that is astonishing to behold. It is so astonishing that it is hard to describe without experiencing the intensity and wonder of this production firsthand.

Photos by Maarten Vanden Abeele