Stravinsky on Sacre

August 9, 2013 § Leave a comment


Bejart online

May 15, 2013 § Leave a comment


Preljocaj online

May 15, 2013 § Leave a comment




Final scene:


    Beware: This remix misattributes the choreography in the credits and butchers the work by replacing Stravinsky with an electronic dance track (“ambient/deep house” according to remixer). Watch without sound. What’s nice is that the camera angles allow us to see where the first dancer is looking as she enters the space and pulls down her skivvies.

The Cult of the Rite

March 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

From Wikipedia:

In the specific context of Greek hero cult, Carla Antonaccio has written, “The term cult identifies a pattern of ritual behavior in connection with specific objects, within a framework of spatial and temporal coordinates. Ritual behavior would include (but not necessarilly be limited to) prayer, sacrifice, votive offerings, competitions, processions and construction of monuments. Some degree of recurrence in place and repetition over time of ritual action is necessary for cult to be enacted, to be practiced”[1]2

To what extent can we view the 20th, and now 21st century, practice of recreating, performing, and witnessing The Rite of Spring, this faux ritual suicide, as a cult? How does our 100-year practice of reenacting this mythical rite (or refusing to reenact it by changing key aspects of the original libretto) satisfy Antonaccio’s criteria for cult worship?

The latin root of the word cult, cultus, means “care” or “adoration.” Lovers adore/care for one another every day in countless gestures. Similarly, worshippers care for the values they hold dearly by practicing devotion to deities or other forces that embody or otherwise represent these values.

Note to self:  could easily devote multiple sets of 12 to this topic. Non-stop writing for 12 minutes at a time is a mainstay of my current writing practice.  Is it devotional? Let’s ask Antonaccio.

1 Antonaccio, “Contesting the Past: Hero Cult, Tomb Cult, and Epic in Early Greece”, American Journal of Archaeology 98.3 (July 1994: 389-410) p. 398.

2 I like the brief etymology presented here. Would be good to cross reference with some others.

The red thread of Barmen

March 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’m sitting in Café Moritz, in a chair identical to those in Bausch’s Café Muller. That piece is often described in the context of the cultural confusion and shock in the aftermath of WW2, which is the context in which Bausch grew up as the daughter of café owners. I don’t know how this café compares t the one where she grew up, but it might be pretty similar.

While sitting here in the part of Wuppertal known as Barmen, I happen across a description of the Declaration of Barmen, 1934, and the dedication of a new synagogue on the campus of a local church. In angry response to Hitler’s ongoing efforts to bring the church under state power, church leadership met in Barmen to articulate their rejection of Hitler’s policies regarding the church. Their statements was called the Declaration of Barmen and it inspired church resistance activity throughout Germany. Resistance churches called themselves the Confessing Church, in contrast to the pro-Nazi German Christianity. Pastors were jailed, put in concentration camps, and executed for opposing the state.

One essay I found described the actions of the pastor of Barmen’s Gemarker Church on the Sunday following the Kristallnacht pogrom (November 9 1938) which destroyed the lives and property of Jews in Barmen no less than elsewhere in Germany:

Pastor Karl Immer stood before the congregation–not wearing his    cassock–and said that a few hundred meters away from the Gemarker    Church God’s word had been burned. He was referring to the    destruction and burning of the Barmen Sheurenstrasse Synagogue.    Because of that he said he neither could nor would preach. He    simply wanted to read two Bible texts. And he read the ten    commandments in their original form and the parable of the Good    Samaritan, prayed the Lord’s Prayer and said, “Those who have    understood the meaning of these texts are invited to join me in the    choir vestry afterwards.” There were about 40 to 50 members of the    congregation. With forged passports we did then manage to get a    number of Jewish citizens out of Germany. (1)

Alongside this description of bravery, heroism, and generosity, the article makes a point of not excusing the gross omission of the treatment of Jews from the Declaration of Barmen in 1934.

“Those who gathered in Barmen in 1934 found no words against the putting into place of the persecution of the Jews. Karl Barth, one of the “fathers” of the Barmen Declaration, later confessed that it was a sin to not have made the Jewish question a decisive issue for the Kirchenkampf, or at least to not have done so publicly.”

This omission is called “the missing seventh Barmen Thesis.”

Sitting here in this traditional café in central Barmen after rehearsal for Bausch’s Sacre, I cannot help but draw connections between these various threads.  How does the Sacre relate to this city in which it was created, and the bodies that created it? Bausch was born into a world ripped apart physically, emotionally, and spiritually, a world where people were trying to make sense of the atrocities they had committed, atrocities both in deed and by omission.

What about the neighbors on that November night in 1934? How might their experience of fear and dread have mixed with relief that they were not the chosen ones to have their livelihood destroyed and the contents of their homes thrown into the street? How relieved were they that it wasn’t their cousin, brother, child being kicked to a bloody pulp right before their eyes? Or perhaps it was. How might this extreme upwelling of emotion have prevented them from taking action on behalf of their neighbors? How can one act against a mob without becoming collateral damage? Contemporary Indian cinema is full of images of the extraordinary mob violence that accompanied the end of British rule and which eventually resulted in the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh along religious lines. There is no question of intervening in a tidal wave. Stepping in front of a mob armed with machetes is suicide.

What about the double downward pulse that the crowd repeats throughout her solo, or as an invitation or invocation of her solo? Are they egging her on? Are they reconnecting with the earth from which they all have come and to which she will return, sooner than they? Are they shaking off their own emotional overload – guilt, shame, relief, fascination, etc.

Bausch created Café Muller in 1978, three years after her Sacre.  How do they connect? Perhaps two attempts to solve the same puzzles.  Wim Wenders acknowledges that he and Pina shared a cultural context and that their artistic visions each grew out of an attempt to make sense of the post-apocalyptic nature of the times in which they lived.

Wenders had met the choreographer when her company performed two of her masterworks, Café Müller and The Rite of Spring, in Venice in 1985. They felt an affinity, he confirms, in part because they were both children of disconsolate, recovering post-war Germany.

These two iconic Bausch pieces were presented together in 1985, the year following a lecture by Eberhard Bethge celebrating the Barmen Declaration while simultaneously faulting its framers for omitting their responsibility to their neighbors, the Jews. He calls for a “reappreaisal of the reasons why no clear statement was made in the Barmen Declaration on the issue of the persecution of the Jews” and calls upon the community to rectify this violent act of inaction. Bausch’s Sacre, created in Barmen in 1975 and continuing to circulate now partnered with Café Muller steps into this conversation.  Of course, Bausch refused to discuss the meaning of her work, so much so that the very idea of asking her about meaning makes longtime collaborator Mercy laugh: “With Pina, it was no help to ask her. She liked to be surprised. She liked misunderstandings when what emerged was incredibly beautiful. I never felt the need to ask things.” (Jays, 2) Her collaborators are generally adamant that discussing the meaning of her work “would [betray] their maker, who squirmed when asked to explain her creations” (Jays, 2)

Bethge calls for an “actual act of encounter”. Encounter with the previously ignored, the previously unseen, unspoken. What do we encounter when we see the Sacre? Our own past, our own ghosts. What do the bystanders witnessing the dance of the chosen one encounter? Encounter the divine. The offering becomes sacred and thus we encounter the divine. Think about examples of sacrifice which require extensive ritual activity in order to create the conditions for encountering the divine.




What’s in a name?

March 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

[this entry is in process]

The piece with many names.

The original Russian name was not used at the world premiere of this piece.  I’m curious how Diaghilev and his collaborators landed upon the particular translation they used in French, and at what point they began referring to it by its Russian name. I wonder how they referred to it among themselves. Go back to the Diaghilev biography for clues in their correspondence between Stravinsky and Diaghilev. Of course the name could have changed monikers at any point and probably at many points in its life even within this one company: after Nijinsky, during Massine’s tenure, after Diaghilev, etc. And of course different people likely referred to it with different names. At the time the collaborators were mostly Russians fluent in French and thus fully aware of the different implications of its differing names in those two languages. How fluent in French were they actually?

Other than Paris the only other place that the original piece played was London, thus requiring an English name. I wonder how they came up with the English translation and how fluent the translators were both with language and with the piece.

German: Fruhlingsopfer

Opfer in Google translate…

Opfer, Geschädigte, Verunglückte
Opfer, Opferung, Verzicht, Opfergabe
Opfer, Gabe, Opfergabe, Kollekte, Vorstellung
Opfer, Opfergabe
Beute, Opfer, Raub
Opfer, Unfallopfer, Verletzte, Todesopfer, Verunglückte, Verwundete

The Swinging Temple

March 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

There is an energy behind all occurrences ad material things for which it is almost impossible to find a name. A hidden, forgotten landscape lies there, the land of silence, the realm of the soul, and in the centre of this land stands the swinging temple… in which all sorrows and joys, all sufferings and joys, all struggles and deliverances meet and move together. The ever-changing swinging temple, which is built of dances, of dances which are prayers, is the temple of the future….

We are all one, and what is at stake is the universal soul out of which and for which we have to create.

Rudolf Laban

It strikes me that perhaps The Sacre is one manifestation of this swinging temple. The Chosen one dances for and against death. We are grateful to be spared and disappointed not to have been chosen. The ever changing ongoingness of the Sacre swings in and out of the public eye. Each new version repeats the motion of the swing, each time with new and old remixed anew for the struggle and deliverance of those gathered to worship, both performers and audience.

It strikes me that the human bodymind is another manifestation of this ongoing swinging. In the accident of occurrences and material things which people often refer to as Hilary Bryan, there is an energy for which it is almost impossible to find a name. Perhaps this swinging temple stands at my center, but I am often more aware of it’s sweeping fluid nature than of it’s stability or continuity. Some of the dances which accumulate to build up this collection of occurrences and material things we call “me” are more literal dances or movements, not only the movements that I rehearse in the studio, perform on stage, or enjoy at a dance party, but also the accumulated gestures that I rehearse in my daily life, when I spread butter on my bread or hold my teacup just so. Some of these dances are the ideas that pass through or pool in the accident of time-space that we often call “me.” The particular rhythm of such ideas as they swing back through is what distinguishes my “me” from another.

Janet Adler, founder and developer of the movement form “Authentic Movement” draws on Laban’s notion of the swinging temple as a metaphor for the inexplicable motivation that drives the collective experience of that form, in which seemingly solo movement motivated by individual curiosity and sensation, is often experienced as collective.

Questions emerge concerning the relationship between the experience of being a performer and being a mover, of being in an audience and being a witness. (Offering from the Conscious Body, 188)

The experiences of the mover and the witness often overlap or merge, the distinctions between these seemingly distinct roles, blur.

Is this what happens to the audience watching The Chosen One? Is this blurring what happens to the collective watching their member fling herself around? Is this conflation of experience what happens as the audience sees its own watching reflected in that of the witnesses on stage?

Adler describes AM as a contemporary manifestation of ancient dance and ritual practice in which the somatic experience of witnessing or being witnessed clarifies the relationship, makes participants more consciously aware of their inverse roles.

Here, as offerings are made within the dance circle, there are moments for individuals, and sometimes for an entire group, when there is no separation between the one who dances and the one who sees the whole. (188)

This shift depends upon its somatic nature, felt, whole-body, conscious, aware. fully invested. Witnessing the Sacre is another somatic experience that we crave. Consider the somatic experience of witnessing, empathetically feeling what The Chosen One feels, empathetically enjoying the same relief as the others in her community that we have not been chosen.

Adler suggests that the dances become mystical specifically because the experience is both “direct” or physical and conscious and “empty of the self”. This is what I experience when I see Marlyse’s performance in the early b/w film of Bausch’s Sacre. She seems empty. And I fantasize that I can see the swings of fear and struggle sweep up the occurrences and material things we might in another moment call “her”.

I wonder how soloists of the Chosen One role might relate to this turn of phrase: Offering from the Conscious Body. Certainly their bodies are conscious as they make this offering. And in some sense not. Nazareth and Barbara both described a feeling of being swept up by the community and of something indescribable “coming out of them”. These feelings are not necessarily opposed. Conscious does not imply control. I can be conscious of this indescribable something as it comes out, without having to know what it is that will come out before it happens. Being swept up does not necessarily mean that I am giving up my agency. I allow myself to go with the flow. I choose to indulge the river. Active release. Choosing to relinquish control. These are skills we practice in various somatic disciplines.


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