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An insight into Pina Bausch Rite of Spring – Dancing at Dusk.
The international co-production between Sadler’s Wells, Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables was due to open in Dakar in March 2020 before touring the world. The May date for London was already in my diary. Just days before the premiere, all performances were cancelled, the World went into lockdown. What inspiration struck the team behind this unique collaboration that had already brought together 38 dancers from 14 African countries and triggered the filming of their last rehearsal, moving it to the ethereal setting of a beach in Senegal? It provides us with a truly special insight and a production which, still raw, is all the more moving for that.
As Salomon Bausch, the executive director of the Pina Bausch Foundation said
“Bringing The Rite of Spring to the beach and shooting it just after sunset was a spontaneous reaction to the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was the last moment of being together within a crisis surrounded by uncertainty. A moment of strength and self-empowerment but also fragile and of unique awareness, dancing on sand and with costumes for the very first time. I think we have all experienced Pina’s Sacre in a way we’ve never done before.”
The Rite of Spring, Stravinsky’s great ballet, was originally choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky and premiered in Paris by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1913. At the time it caused an outburst – some of the audience walked out, shocked both by the dissonant, mechanistic and elemental music and by the story – of a spring sacrifice, where the chosen girl dances herself to death. Pina Bausch’s interpretation is raw and earthy with atavistic choreography and moments of fear, lust, despair and anger. Normally the stage is covered with dirt which clings to the dancers as they sweat. Moving the performance to a sandy beach, carefully raked to a pristine perfection before the rehearsal starts, just as the sun is setting over the sea is a natural staging which might just be closer to the imagined version that Bausch herself transposed to the stage.
The concept of bringing together a dance company who have never worked as an ensemble before is one which also creates a unique dynamic. There’s a real power in the movement of the group as a whole, no jaded dancers rolling out yet another rendition of a work they learnt at dance school.
As they are learning the choreography, Josephine Anne Endicott tells the dancers in earlier rehearsals
“If it’s just a movement it doesn’t look any good. It’s a feeling”
That lesson is well learned. Despite this being nothing more than a rehearsal, the result is powerful, expressive and genuinely moving.
Germaine Acogny, Founder of École des Sables, said:
“When I saw for the first time a complete run-through of the piece with these fabulous dancers who had managed to interiorise Pina’s choreography in spite of cultural and technical differences, I was deeply touched and moved and wished that Pina could have seen this powerful interpretation. I am sure she would have loved it.”
Dancing at Dusk – A moment with Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring will be available for audiences to rent online via Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage from 12:00 pm BST on Wednesday 1 July at the price of £5 or currency equivalent. Proceeds will help support the artists, the future life of the production, and Sadler’s Wells.
The film will be available until Friday 31 July 2020.
Sadler’s Wells is grateful for the generous support of its audiences during this challenging time. Those who would like to help further can make a donation to support the theatre at https://secure.sadlerswells.com/support/donate.