So here we are at the beginning of our journey into discovering some of the best dance-productions to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. To kick things off we are taking a peek at Maurice Béjart’s production which debuted almost forty years after Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s own riotous première.
Take a look at Béjart’s choreography performed in 2007.
Maurice Béjart choreographed his own dance performance of Stravinksy’s The Rite of Spring in 1959, taking influence from the Ballet Russes production but he reworked the story, characters and dance moves. Béjart re-imagined the tale of Russian Pagan sacrifice, relinquishing the mystical spirituality of the ritual and solidifying it in a far more tangible act. The culminating sacrifice was replaced with what the critic Robert Johnson describes as “ceremonial coitus”. Béjart’s choreography definitely reflected the changing social attitudes as the 1950s gave way to the 1960s, but even today the overt references to sex, especially in this ceremonial form, is somewhat shocking.
When you watch Béjart production sexuality and corporal bodily form is obvious: the costumes are nothing more than skin tight unitards for both the male and female dances. Yet, he separates the genders from one another magnifying the distinction between the sexes, whilst amplifying the atmosphere of lust and sexual frustration. The sexes only meet in the final third where their carnal wanton sexuality is released, concluding with the central couple in a sexually embracive pose (if you were caught in this compromising position you would definitely be embarrassed!) whilst the rest of the cast frame them, occupied in animal-like lust-filled revelry.
This version of The Rite of Spring changed the way in which the dance-world approached this piece of music. No longer was it about Pagan sacrifice demanded by the elders. The idea of new life in spring and thus sex became synonymous with the music, where the rite was an act of carnal pleasure, not some form of mystical appeasement to non-existent forces.