Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri in Wayne McGregor's Afterite; Photo: Michelle Tabnick PR, courtesy of the Guggenheim Museum.
Happy Birthday, The Rite of Spring!
The iconic piece turns 105 on May 29. Shrouded in legend, it continues to inspire creators while thrilling and, sometimes, unnerving audiences. The Paris premiere by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes was greeted with a near riot as the wealthy coterie clashed with the bohemians. It remains unclear whether the trigger was Igor Stravinsky’s angular score or Vaslav Nijinsky’s flat-footed choreography. Around 40 people were removed from the premises as the performance doggedly continued. Even with the drama in the audience, the piece received reviews that ranged from tepid to poor. Puccini pronounced it “the work of a madman.”
As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, so in 1920, Diaghilev attempted a revival. Nijinksy, however, was in mental decline, and no one else remembered the choreography. This led to interpretations through the years that have spanned from Millicent Hodson’s effort at a faithful recreation to personalized versions from Mark Morris, Thierry Thieû Niang, and Martha Graham.
It’s this legacy that choreographer Wayne McGregor must confront — and move beyond — in Afterite, his new work for American Ballet Theatre, which . . .
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