The Rite of Spring Promises Contemporary Art with a Side of Controversy
To be honest with you, I have always avoided the ballet like the plague. Perhaps this stems from my jealousy of people with co-ordination, grace and stomachs which can’t double as comfortable pillows. Perhaps I was scarred by the movie Center Stage when I watched it age 13. Regardless, after chatting with Brett Bonda, Richmond Ballet’s Managing Director, about their upcoming performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring, I have seen the error of my ignorant, philistine ways. On November 3rd, this scribe will be attending the ballet for the first time ever, not only because the performance will include naked butts AND includes this disclaimer:
“Patron advisory: Contains mature subject matter. Not recommended for young audiences.”
The Rite of Spring is inspired by ancient pagan rituals, and features a scene in which a young woman is sacrificed. “
Three ballets will be danced in each performance: Serenade, Fancy Free and The Rite Of Spring, and I have been assured they’re all amazing.
Brett, why was The Rite Of Spring chosen as part of Richmond Ballet’s 30th anniversary celebrations?
We were approached by the Virginia Arts Festival to see if we were interested in performing the Rite of Spring on the actual 100th anniversary of the premiere of it – May 29th 1913 in Paris. They had the Virginia Symphony playing it but they also wanted the dance component. They came to us and asked if we’d be interested in joining the performance. We were one of the only performances done on the ballet’s anniversary, in the United States. It worked so well, we decided to also put it on in Richmond for our 30th anniversary celebrations.
When The Rite Of Spring premiered in Paris 100 years ago, there was a near riot in the audience. Why was this?
When it premiered, the classical ballet genre was really what was expected, so this was more just really unconventional choreography. The subject matter was not about swans; some people might not have expected Avant Garde sets and costumes. It was just a depart from the normal, classical ballet that a lot of people expected.
We hope that [a near-riot] doesn’t happen for us but we do want a lot of thought put into your viewing…it really is a captivating performance.
Let’s talk about the disclaimer attached to the performance. Do you think the audience in Richmond will find this performance so confronting to warrant a disclaimer?
I don’t think they’ll find it too disturbing. The disclaimer is in there because of the subject matter, you know, there is sacrificing a virgin, you’d have to explain that to younger kids, what’s a virgin? You’d have to get into those kind of topics.
Also, the costuming for the gentlemen- they’re scantily clad. They are wearing, basically, thongs. The ladies are similar but they have some undergarments on so you wont see as much skin and flesh than on the gentlemen.
The actual sacrifice part is done very artistically, there’s not like blood or anything, and it ends in a very dramatic way onstage.
Before each performance on November 1st, 2nd and 3rd, there will be a discussion held. Is this normally done before Richmond Ballet’s performances or is this unique?
This is unique both for the 30th anniversary and also because it is the Rite of Spring. We’re so lucky to have Jerri Kumery who is the curator of all of the Sal Aiello work (Aiello is the choreographer for the Rite of Spring). She has the rights to all of his ballets, as he passed several years ago.
Jennifer Cable, who is a Professor at the University of Richmond in their music department, did her doctoral thesis on Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring. She is an expert, in an unique way, on the music of the Rite of Spring and Jerri is an expert on the choreography.
We did this discussion prior to our Virginia Arts Festival Performance and we didn’t even have enough room for everybody to sit.
We said, you know what, it makes it so much more interesting if people know about what they’re about to see, they can hear about it first and then watch for certain things in the production. So we said we are going to do it before each of the performances in Richmond.
Great! So, what is your advice for people attending the performances or perhaps feel undecided on whether or not they should attend?
To the audience I would say, come with an open mind. This is what’s beautiful about three different pieces on the same night. We hope everyone loves all three, but you’re bound to love two of the three and you’re bound to be moved by the third piece regardless.
For those undecided if they should attend; It’s an opportunity to see three master works in one evening – and you get the Richmond symphony in the pit, the pre-performance discussion and naked tushies on stage.
I don’t want anyone to think this is your traditional classical ballet you’re coming to. This is more contemporary. Don’t be afraid!
Richmond Ballet’s 30th Anniversary Celebration performance, will be held at the Carpenter Theatre at Richmond CenterStage, November 1-3, 2013.
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