Joffrey Ballet celebrates 'The Rite of Spring' centennial

February 28, 2013
The Purdue Exponent
Emma Hopkins

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Over 100 years ago, the “The Rite of Spring” ballet was performed for the first time in Paris and almost incited a riot in the audience due to its avant-garde composition.

“The Rite of Spring,” choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky in 1913 and composed by Igor Stravinsky, will be the first ballet of three Thursday night at Elliott Hall of Music. The others include “Age of Innocence” choreographed by Edwaard Liang (2008), and “After the Rain” choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon (2005). The ballets will be performed by the Joffrey Ballet company.

 

“The Rite of Spring” is considered one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century and is thought to have shaped modern ballet. Abby Eddy, director of marketing for Purdue Convocations, was eager to bring the show to Purdue because it will be performed with Nijinsky’s original choreography, which is unique.

“It really is a tribute to what ‘The Rite of Spring’ was 100 years ago … We’re really excited to have it on this season,” Eddy said.

Though it doesn’t have a cohesive plot, each scene paints a picture of pagan Russia, and features tribal ceremonies such as “Dance of the Abduction,” “The Ritual of Rival Tribes” and ends with a sacrificial dance. Joanna Wozniak, a dancer with the Joffrey Ballet is delighted to be performing in it.

“In the ballet world, it’s a rare situation to come across,” Wozniak said. “The girls have really long braids on, and everyone’s painted white, there are no pointed shoes in it. You’re dancing on a painted canvas floor and there’s a painted canvas background showing the earth and the ground.”

The second part, “Age of Innocence,” is a collection of scenes inspired by Jane Austen novels, focusing on the plight of women in the early 19th century and their relationships with men.

“It’s kind of a love story in a strict society, in an elite society of that time and era. It’s very beautiful,” Wozniak said.

It is set to the music of one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, Philip Glass and Grammy award winner Thomas Newman. It contains group scenes interspersed with pas de deux (duets).

The final rendition of the night will be “After the Rain,” a contemporary classic featuring music from Arvo Pärt. It consists entirely of three pas de deuxs and is a sensual interpretation of relationships loosely based on the concept of the calm and tranquility which comes after a storm.

Indiana is just one stop on the ballet’s seven week tour, a stretch of time in which the dancers work 40 hours a week without many breaks. Wozniak feels the time she spends dancing is a lot of work, but fun at the end of the day.

“We’re working like 18 days straight. We won’t have two days off until the end of March or the beginning of April,” Wozniak said.

There will be a pre-show at 6:30 p.m. before the ballet in Lawson, Room 1142, where a member of the artistic team will discuss the performance.

“It’s nice because it gives you more in-depth knowledge going into the ballet before you see it,” Eddy said.

Though the ballet has sold over 2,000 seats so far, tickets will remain available up until the performance at the box office at Elliott. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m.