One Hundred Years of The Rite of Spring

569. Saturday, 5 January, 1:45–3:00 p.m., 305, Hynes

Program arranged by the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages

This panel marking the centenary of The Rite of Spring examines the cultural legacy of the controversial ballet from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

I.  "The Rite of Spring: Roerich's Pagan Past," Francoise Rosset, Wheaton Coll., MA

II.  "The Rite of Spring: Stravinsky's Mysterium," Marilyn Sizer, Seattle, WA

III. "The Rite of Spring: Pina Bausch; Danger; and a Woman, Writing," Carol Rowntree Jones, Nottingham, England

Presiding: Rebecca Jane Stanton, Barnard Coll.
Responding: Harlow L. Robinson, Northeastern Univ.


"The Rite of Spring: Roerich's Pagan Past"
Francoise Rosset, Wheaton Coll., MA

When the Rite of Spring premiered in 1913 , it caused  a furor, -- and not a nice one. The reasons for this are varied, but the focus usually  ends up on the music and on the choreography. The music went on to become a canonical  piece of  XXth century music, and, for a while, the only aspect of the performance to survive. Yet only three years earlier, Paris audiences  very much like the one for Sacre had been enchanted by another performance of Russian exotica, another Diaghilev/Stravinsky collaboration:  The Firebird. This makes the issue of The Rite's reception even more intriguing.

This paper proposes to examine a further cause for the audience's discomfort at the Rite of Spring: the design and look of the piece,  in costume and in set design. I will  discuss Roerich and the design in the context of other related works of his. Part of Roerich's master plan was informed by his ethnographic/ archaeological  projects delving into Russia's prehistory. And in this Roerich was not alone, as we have evidence that Kandinsky's expedition among the Zyrians in the Russian North similarly informs a large chunk of Kandinsky's work well into the 1920s. The purpose to this paper is to  examine to what extent the Paris audience might have been alienated not only by the music and the dance, but also by the very vision of a pagan "past"  not part of the standard Western perception of its own past. 

"The Rite of Spring: Stravinsky’s Mysterium"
Marilyn Sizer, Seattle, WA

 From the perspective of early twentieth century Russian culture, western scholarship has only partly succeeded in its investigation of The Rite of Spring.   In the analysis of the form and style of the work and in the search for musical and ethnographic sources, the work has been fragmented and mostly removed from its cultural context.  In that context, The Rite is a grand synthesis of music, ornament, and dance, a ritual to transform the world. It is just one example of an idea that preoccupied the Russian creative intelligentsia: art is a non-rational form of cognition, the expression of spiritual truth which can transform man’s intelligence. This paper begins with a definition of Mysterium using Aleksandr Scriabin’s work as a point of reference.  It moves to Nikolai Roerich’s similar views of the role of art in life, specifically that art and ritual can restore cosmic order in the face of rapidly changing, even apocalyptic times.  The paper establishes the wider cultural context for just this particular experiment in art and underscores Stravinsky’s participation in that experiment.

"The Rite of Spring: Pina Bausch; Danger; and a Woman, Writing," 
Carol Rowntree Jones, Nottingham, England

How does the work of a male composer a hundred years ago speak to a study of female creativity now?  How is this facilitated by an interrelation of art forms: music, dance and writing?

This paper looks at the legacy of Stravinsky’s work in the context of late 20th-C dance, in particular Pina Bausch’s interpretation as symbolic of a very woman-centred rite of spring.

Through Bausch’s work we see on stage what it is to be a woman, what it is to be vulnerable, what it is to be explosive with creative energy.  The paper examines how this can be translated into the work of a female writer; how to work at this level of danger (as demonstrated by Stravinsky’s music and Bausch’s creation) and how to make work that speaks so clearly of tenderness, cruelty, love and loss.

It examines the sexuality and humanity that Bausch portrays, and the accusations of anti-feminism made against her work. In connecting with her vision we face the truth that we all have the capacity to be the lynch mob as well the lover.

With reference to the works of Fanny Howe and Robert Cohan, the paper reflects on what it is to be a woman with a creative life and the strategies and techniques that feed and underpin this.

In the course of the paper references are made to Wim Wenders’ film Pina and Anne Linsel and Rainer Hoffmann’s Tanztraüme

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