Celebrating the 100 year anniversary of Le Sacre du Printemps (Rite of Spring) by composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky, Paris, 1913. Excerpts performed by Out of the Chamber music ensemble and Dancer, Liz Boubion. February, 2013.
Thoughts by Liz Boubion:
Taking on this archetypal “virgin sacrifice” role as a non-virgin feminist approaching the Autumn of my life, became a creative inquiry into the meaning of this historical piece and an opportunity to ask myself “what do I Iive for?” and “what will I sacrifice for it?”
I had to contend with the sexualized Russian pagan ritual story embedded in its original production and I could not ignore Pina Bausch’s contemporary interpretation of this orchestral Ballet as a rape/murder victim dance of a woman on a dirt-covered stage.
If this is titled “Rite of Spring”, is rape a rite of passage? a coming of age story? Perhaps this reveals the shadow side of our humanity and how western culture supports violence against women and girls. Or perhaps this ritual sacrifice a reflection of nature in the Spring time as an aggressive force. Why is this archetypal mythology embedded in so many ancient cultures, and what is its purpose? If the virgin dances until her death, how was this significant for ballet and orchestral music in 1913?
Removing my personal identity from this mythology for a moment allowed me to appreciate its metta significance and symbolism for the time in a much more meaningful way. This piece caused a near-riot in Paris with audience members in an outrage to the avant-garde. Stravinsky’s mixed metered dissonance combined with Nijinsky’s earth-bound stomps and flexed-footed break-away from ballet changed and evolved the two art forms forever. In fact, if Ballet herself was symbolically “The Virgin” typically floating above the ground dressed in tulle and lace, then the violent pagan ritual of her descent into the natural world would be the most effective transformative myth to enact for the western world of Ballet. Stripping women in ballet from their feigned innocence catalyzed a creative response that embraced a fuller spectrum of the human experience and of the female body politic.
I devoured this piece of music with passion and vigor finding the transitions amidst the 3’s, 5’s, 7’s and 9’s, and feeling myself caught and preyed upon- not by people or audience necessarily, but by the spirit of “Dance” itself. 23 years ago, under the full moon, dancing barefooted on soil, I devoted myself to this spirit in the Springtime of my career. 3 years after, I ironically and un-heroically, became a survivor of rape by an audience member in my early career. My response was not to stop dancing, but to use the power of movement as medicine. I had to re-build, re-create myself, re-claim my body’s spirit and discover the broader spectrum of my humanity. I am still planning on dancing until I die. And there is much to be said about how a dancer is sustained by a community to keep dancing and how a dancer avoids being a victim as an embodied expression of the human experience.
My costume was decidedly un-sexy, queer and un-feminine, yet my vulnerability remained. Like a prisoner to the impermanence of life, or a prisoner to whatever you want to project onto this archetype, there really is no way out of our fallibility no matter our gender, sexual orientation, our race, our class identities, or how we dress ourselves. What would a full-length queer version of the Rite of Spring look like? Deer antlers and all?
In this exposition, I decided to use the stair case of this site-specific venue to anchor the metaphor of descending from high to low and being danced to death. I hope to continue this collaboration with the funding and support to move beyond artist oppression in the US, to evolve dance as an art form and to sustain life for future female dance artists.
Elektra Schmidt (Piano)
Karla Avila (Clarinet)
Jacob Johnson (Guitar)
Zac Selissen (Bass Gutiar)
Video editor- Tāra L Kalï
Location: The Berkeley Arts Festival, February 2013
Berkeley, CA. USA