Stravinsky feted in top London dance house season

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 30, 2012 12:04 PM
Stravinsky feted in top London dance house season

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - London dance house Sadler's Wells will mark the centenary of the riotous premiere of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" with a commission that uses neither the original music or scandalous choreography, opting instead for a piece inspired by it.

Olympics opening ceremony choreographer Akram Khan's "ITMOi (in the mind of Igor)", with music by three composers that will in part draw on Stravinsky's groundbreaking work of musical brutalism, will have its first public performance on May 29, 2013, Sadler's Wells said on Tuesday.

That will be 100 years to the day after a near-riot broke out at the premiere of the ballet, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees in Paris.

Sadler's Wells will also revive a modern choreography by Michael Keegan-Dolan of Stravinsky's rhythmically ferocious and paganistic ballet that changed the course of 20th century music, the venue said at a news conference announcing its new season.

Other venues around the world will mark the centenary, including 14 performances of various versions and tributes to the work at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, starting on the anniversary day with the Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre and conductor Valery Gergiev in a re-creation of Nijinsky's original.

Khan, whose dance piece for the 2012 Summer Olympics was intended as a tribute to the 52 victims of bombing attacks on the London public transport system in July 2005, said that given the brilliance of Nijinsky's work, and a more recent version by Pina Bausch, he had decided to go in a different direction.

"It's not really a piece about Stravinsky, it's inspired by his concepts...but it's still about the story of the 'Rite of Spring'," the British-Bangladeshi choreographer said.

He said he had asked three composers to provide the music because "I just wanted to make things more difficult" - partly in the spirit of paying homage to the sense of rhythmical and musical rupture that he senses in Stravinsky's score.

He said that one of the vivid memories Stravinsky recalled from his youth was the sound of ice breaking on the river in St. Petersburg: "He would never forget the sound so the idea of rupture fascinated me."

Sadler's Wells executives said the venue had presented 677 performances in its 2011/12 season, an increase of 53 shows on the previous year.

Artistic Director Alistair Spalding decried recent proposals by the Conservative-led government to drop dance from the core curriculum under a sweeping revamp of the British education system, saying the move would likely reverse a trend of more young people learning dance in school and choosing dance as a profession.

"The predominance of dance in the Olympic ceremonies shows how rewarding and involving it can be," Spalding said. "It will be deeply damaging to reverse this investment."

He said dance was the second most popular activity in British schools, after football, and ranked first for girls.

(Editing by Stephanie Pett and Paul Casciato)