Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal),…Nijinsky, Stravinsky and Paul Taylor….
It was during Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes season in Paris that Nijinsky choreographed Stravinsky’s revolutionary score Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring). Premiering on May 29, 1913 at the Théâtre des Champs-élysées, during the first notes heard; that bassoon’s haunting call with the brass slowly following that the audience became uneasy.
The combination of the dissonant sounds followed by Nijinsky’s radical departure from classical ballet, when “The curtain rose on a group of knock-kneed and long-braided Lolitas jumping up and down,” the audience immediately started to boo. The catcalls, jeers and whistles continued and became so loud that in order for the dancers to continue Nijinsky had to climb onto a chair in order to shout instructions from the wings.
Serge Diaghilev frantically switched the house lights off and on in hopes of restoring some sense of decorum. That it proved to be a very stressful night for ballet in Paris is an understatement. The next morning’s press for the performance was anything but positive; the music was referred as more noise than anything else, the choreography described as ugly.
With all that said, Le Sacre du Printemps is considered the beginning of 20th century modern music composition and the first true break with classicism that would eventually yield “contemporary” ballet and help open the world’s mind to the idea of “modern” dance. So for Paul Taylor to tackle such an iconic piece of dance history certainly raised my eyebrow.
Premiering in 1980, Alan M. Kriegsman in the Washington Post referred to Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) as Paul Taylor’s deliciously berserk Stravinsky and that is exactly what it is. This is not the revered pagan ritual of sacrifice performed upon hallowed ground such as those of either Pina Bausch or Bejart. Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) is a reimagining of the music which allows for a nod every now and then to Nijinsky.
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) does not use the full orchestra version of the music but instead Stravinsky’s arrangement for two pianos. This in itself makes you look at the work from a newer perspective.
A Private Eye (Micheal Trusnovec ) seeks to rescue a babe for The Girl (Laura Halzack) kidnapped by a crook (Robert Kleinendorst), this crook has a slinky seductive mistress (Amy Young) and of course a crook needs a hence man (Jamie Rae Walker) and all this is done under the stern eye of the Rehearsal Director (Heather McGinley). There you have it in a nut-shell!
The work begins as in any rehearsal, people stretching on the floor, someone using a ladder for pliés, from the wings dancers come on to the stage walking in profile in a the same manner that is often associated with Nijinsky.
Laura Halzack solo was riveting, her movements both passionate and yet yearning. Of all the performances of the night, Ms. Halzack is the first to come to mind. Micheal Trusnovec was excellent as the Private Eye, he approaches his character with a perfect blend of seriousness, as one would expect from a Private Eye, with the delicious campiness the role requires. Amy Young as the mistress slinked about the stage as the perfect vamp, seductive yet greedy for gold. You could not take your eyes off of Robert Kleinendorst as the Crook as he crept and scampered about the stage.
Mr. Taylor plays with the angular lateral movements in profile that were used by Nijinsky’s in his Le Sacre. This is part of the works charm, it has so many layers and so many references that it is a visually busy work, but in a good way.
John Rawlings minimalistic sets along with Jennifer Tipton’s lighting work to progress the ballet and is used to define scenes or sections one from another. Seeing the work I am reminded of the Black and White films of the 40’s and 50’s that possess a two dimensionality that is enhance by the use of shadows and costumes.
Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) did have moments of genius, but also moments when the dance seemed slow. There were also a sometimes sense of confusion as to when it was actual rehearsal and when was it an actual hijinks. The piece would have benefitted greatly with a plot synopsis just to give the viewer direction.
Was Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) enjoyable, yes. Is it Paul Taylor best work, I don’t think so, but with so many works by Mr. Taylor how could anyone pick a favorite. What I do know is that I would greatly like to see the work again. I think perhaps Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rehearsal) is a work that needs to be seen more than once to fully grasp its complexities.