Everyone knows about the debacle caused by The Rite of Spring. In spite of having caused a riot, the score quickly became not only accepted but beloved, with a section even used by Walt Disney in Fantasia less than thirty years after the controversial Paris premiere. The uproar was caused not only by the music, which was hard for the musicians to understand and reportedly not played very well, but by the daring choreography of Vaslav Nijinsky. Although we have the score, we do not have the choreography, which was performed as Nijinsky created it for fewer than ten performances and then lost. What we do have is a scholarly reconstruction, by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer, premiered by the Joffrey Ballet back in 1987. True, this version is far from perfect: dance historian Jennifer Homans, in her book Apollo's Angels, dismisses it as "American postmodern dance masquerading as a seminal modernist work." Even so, the Mariinsky Ballet leads off its current program at the Kennedy Center Opera House, seen on Tuesday night, with it.
Vaslav Nijinsky in Le Spectre de la Rose, 1911
Sarah Kaufman, Mariinsky Ballet’s lush, bright and visually spectacular ‘Rite of Spring’ (Washington Post, January 29)
---, Mariinsky Ballet’s ‘Rite of Spring’: Ode to the human savage, still untamed (Washington Post, January 23)
Alastair Macaulay, Tweaking an Illustrious Tradition to Incorporate Western Notions (New York Times, January 26)
---, An Age-Old Romantic Introduction, With Revitalizing Touches (New York Times, January 19)
Gia Kourlas, Young Performers Spreading Their Wings (New York Times, January 23)
The final act was given over to Paquita Grand Pas, a lengthy divertissement by Marius Petipa inserted into Paquita. Set to largely undistinguished music by Ludwig Minkus, it ran the risk of anticlimax, and indeed many empty seats were left after second intermission. For the energetic Pas de Trois, the variation of Kristina Shapran (a dancer to watch), and the lovely return of Ulyana Lopatkina, it was worth the wait.
This program repeats all week at the Kennedy Center Opera House, through February 1, but with different casts.