Monday, January 24, 2011

on Le sacre du printemps

If David Lynch created Twin Peaks now, he wouldn't have to reveal who killed Laura Palmer. I could jokingly say that the most popular TV dramas today have entered the late Romantic period. Like Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, the solution is perpetually sustained: a cliffhanger for the cliffhanger's sake. When watching a drama like this, we basically forget the direction, and focus on the details, the soundbites, instead. Lost, for me, appears to be determined to go nowhere. I'm not ranting. I'm actually watching the third season. I like all the details, conversations, music, the visual effects. The island is so beautiful so why do I have to go somewhere else? Lost's clever use of pop music as allusion is not so different from John Cage's use of the classical cliche in his Credo in Us. And the orchestral (plus electronic) music claims the drama's authenticity. The score is very much like Stravinsky's.

But, the most of scores for films or TV drama are basically descendants of Stravinsky's. That's why Adorno criticized Wagner and Stravinsky. Adorno always goes against catchy soundbites.

Well, it's just a TV show.

The well-known Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) riot occurred at its premiere on May 29, 1913, at Théatre des Champs Elysées in Paris. How this happened is opaque. It is generally said that Stravinsky's score which was quite novel to the audiences caused this. But whether the audiences booed Stravinsky's score or Nijinsky's choreograph is not clear. I even read a modern musical history book that tells Diaghilev deliberately planted some kind of theater hooligans in order to make his product scandalous. Anyway, the audiences' punching each other over the style of music or dance is quite unusual. I imagine that, if it had been a politically controversial performance, such a thing could have happened, but this performance's pseudo-anthropological theme rather fit the ideology of that era after the series of Paris Expositions. I guess Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro is more political than Le sacre du printemps.

By the way, I imagine, this was very luxury project. 8 horns? 4 trumpets? The complex music that requires much rehearsal. Getting financial support might have been quite an achievement. This was not a project in a small dance studio.

Le sacre du printemps did not happen all of sudden. It was not some kind of cultural mutant or fringe. Before its premiere, the Dalcroze system, which aimed at creating chorus of bodily movements, was already established. In 1913, Isadora Duncan was already famous (that year she lost her two sons), and Mary Wigman, who left Dalcroze school, met Rudolf von Laban in Monte Verità, Ascona (she would create her first version of famous Hexentanz in 1914). Watching Jeffrey Ballet's recreation of the original choreograph, I see that it shares much in common with Modern dance (or, German expressionist dance). It's surprisingly asexual. In this sense it goes against Romantic ballet. The gentlemen who watched the premiere of this might have booed for this. The point of this work is, I think, presenting the Otherness. It doesn't tell the people described are from where. You don't see the absolute Other sexually, so the choreography has to be asexual....I imagine so. Even it's not about folklore. It's rather an aliens' dance. It alienates the audience who wants to see something exotic.

There are 3 famous choreographs for this: Nijinsky's (we see as Robert Jeffrey's recreation), Maurice Béjart's, and Pina Bausch's. Though its feminist twist is all too familiar, I like Pina Bausch's the best. At 1:36, when the music gets louder again, the dancers just repeat small simple steps, this part is so scarely.

I hate Béjart. When watching something like this, I feel like watching the 70s Bond girls. And I don't understand why he made a pas de deux out of Sacrificial Dance. The orgy itself is not the problem for me. But I think it fits Carmina Burana better. Le sacre du printemps needs an aspect of alienation. If a choreographer wants an orgy, it has to be like one described in Stanley Kubrik's Eyes Wide Shut.

Carmina Burana (1975)

1 comment:

  1. I love Stravinsky, and just recently found out about his involvement with Diaghilev. I love the story about the riot!