Rite of Spring with a happy ending this time

Dance news - Barbora Truksová


At the beginning of the 2016 calendar year, the ballet company of the J. K. Tyl Theatre in Pilsen premiered Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, which is one of the most musically demanding ballets, and also a touchstone for all choreographers. It exists in countless forms. Choreographer Alena Pešková but decided to discard most of the known interpretations of this ballet as a pagan ritual. In doing so, she remained true to her favourite principles - the internal struggle of the individual, alienating effects and clear plot.

The theme, which unfolds in front of the audience seated on an elevation on three sides of the square (the layout of the auditorium reinforces the feeling of being part of the play), is introduced by the story of the composer - Stravinsky, who is looking for inspiration for his next work. This scene is accompanied by another Stravinsky ballet - Apollon musagète. That's why a girl appears - the Muse, who comes from the future, where she had previously been listening to a CD of Stravinsky's music. She is the composer's guide and, above all, his seductress. Jarmila Dycková as the Muse, dominates Stravinsky's charm and sex appeal in Martin Šinták. He cannot resist its lure, which transforms into a painful process of folding. All the more painful for the creator is the non-acceptance of his new work by society, as well as by the other artists-dancers to whom he presented the new ballet in a theatrical and impressive stage and who will continue to be the main instigators of the whole process... Thanks to the Muse, however, Stravinsky still believes in success and the company joins him. It just takes courage to throw off established conventions - the dancers take off their toes, change their existing movement vocabulary, and start experimenting. Already, the Muse and Stravinsky are choosing the cast of individual roles and are shocked at how quickly the positions of the chosen individuals in the company are changing. The first signs of hostility towards the Victim-Victimizer can be observed, but we are still "only" in the dance company. The atmosphere, however, becomes increasingly dense. Shintak's Stravinsky often comes across as bland and defenceless, especially compared to Dyck's Muse, who seems to be the real ruler of the plot and does not allow Stravinsky to interfere more. This impression is reinforced by the soundtrack - snippets of Stravinsky's thoughts are read out in a bilingual canon to discordant music.

The image of the crowd standing in stamping steps and with frenetic expressions against the composer is powerful. He has nothing left in his hands and returns to his piano. The choreography and sharp movements are extremely dynamic and do not give the dancers a moment to breathe. On stage, the evolution of a society takes place - from primal fertilization to decline and waste. The scattered grain works very effectively here - first as a symbol of fertility and motherhood, then as a crop that is wasted, the joy of life turning into orgiastic fun and wildness. Although this passage is very convincing, the choreographer and dancers managed to refrain from any vulgarity. At that moment the creator comes again - Stravinsky. The composer here represents the element deus ex machina, is enraged by the behaviour of the crowd and sends a punishment of hunger upon him from which he must redeem himself.

Pešková inserted another alienation into this scene - the rehearsal in the ensemble is interrupted, the set is being cleaned, the dancers are completely exhausted. With the division of roles, the trial of the chosen victim begins. Tensions rise between the dancers, again immersed in their roles, and the harsh bullying of the Victim (Anna Srncová). The dancers certainly don't spare their colleague - they throw sacks of grain at her with unbridled force, toss her around in demanding lifts, and more than once roughly place her on the ground covered in grain patterns. The victim, however, is still a mere dancer in the troupe, screaming when the music stops and trying to escape the theatre hall. But she is pulled back, no one wants to help her - the only one who disagrees with the others' actions is the Accomplice (Michal Kováč), who, however, does not have the courage to stand up to the others. The girl is undressed, her space is bounded by a small rectangle from which she cannot get out - her rescuer comes too late... Deus ex machina but it is also evident in the end, when the girl takes a breath and dances with the accomplice to the music Apollona musagète a fragile duet that is the apotheosis of love. Both then lie down with the composer and watch his departing Muse...

The scenic design is well done Richard Pesek, dominated by the motif of a sprawling piano, from which white strings stretch out like a sheet music outline towards the tall speakers. The creators also focused on playing with the psychology of colours - the opening passage of the composer's presence is associated with white and black, while during the ritual, an aggressive red dominates. In the final duet, the Victim and the Accomplice are dressed in tunics of green, a symbol of hope. Pešková worked with temporal indeterminacy and made artful use of alienation effects to intensify an already emotionally challenging theme. The sight of the escalating action and the almost unbearable bullying gives one the creeps. The reconciled ending thus seems a necessity, but one that works very well. Although the final duet between the otherwise excellent Anna Srncova and Michal Kováč was marked by the nervousness of the premiere, it was not overly pathetic, which is a threat in similarly tense scenes. Thus, the Pilsen ensemble managed in The Rite of Spring Alena Pešková's work will stand up in all respects.


Written from the premiere on 16 January 2016, Small Stage of J. K. Tyl Theatre, Plzeň.


The Rite of Spring

Choreography, direction and libretto adaptation: Alena Pešková
Sets: Richard Pešek jr.
Costumes: Monika Kletečková and Alena Pešková
Musical collaboration: lumír Havlas
Assistant choreographer: Zuzana Hradilová
Inspice: Petr Šmaus



Author Barbora Truksová




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