BWW Review: Pointless Theatre Revisits THE RITE OF SPRING
It was on a May evening 105 years ago when the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's ballet "The Rite of Spring" caused booing, catcalls and near riots in Paris.
The music has since been recognized as one of the most significant pieces of the 20th century, and its current presentation by the Pointless Theatre at The Dance Loft on 14 is being greeted with much less opposition.
There are elements in the all-female version directed by Matt Reckeweg and choreographed by Kathy Gordon that are similar to what we read of the premiere, famously choreographed by Vasalvl Nijinsky, involving a primitive ritual surrounding the coming of the season, involving both a elder seer (presented here as an expressive puppet), and a young human sacrifice (in this case, a stunt baby, held aloft).
Around these two, the company of 11 swirls and stomps around a central well, from which they all at one point dip for water.
What's been foisted on the synopsis is a modern day theme of climate calamity, made clear to the audience mostly because we are told of it at the beginning (after we were handed eensy programs meant to save a tree or two).
There are also some nature sound effects of rain and thunder added by sound designer Mike Winch to the 2016 recording of of the piece by Stravinsky by MusicAeterna, conducted by Greek-born, Russian based conductor Teodor Currentzis.
But largely the ritual dancing is kept in a work that also folds in fight choreography (by Lex Davis).
It's a vigorously danced work that demands the entire cast be on stage for the whole 40 minutes without much of a break.
The elders, danced by Anne Flowers, Eirin Stevenson and Elizabeth Ung lord over the group while the larger group of Janine Baumgardner, Acacia Danielson, Emmanuella Enamor, Sara Herrera, Sadie Leigh, Anna Lynch and Sharalys Silva-Vázquez swirl and reach out to the skies, first appearing effectively as masked farmers toiling the fields.
Deidre Staples is "The Child" who must carry and protect the baby from the growing swarm.
Stravinsky's work is still so big, jagged and pulsing it still is able to command most of the attention even after a century. It's great to sit and hear it, even if it's a recording.
As the Pointless Theatre's first wordless production since its memorable "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligary," "The Rite of Spring" carries with it some of the expressionistic approach (including bulging eyes further emphasized by blackened eye makeup).
If it is a disappointment to the uninformed that "The Rite of Spring" has little to do with celebrating the especially long-delayed local seasonal change, the urgent message of impending doom regarding the climate is every bit as timely.
Running time: Forty minutes, no intermission.
Photo credit: Mark Williams Hoelscher.
"The Rite of Spring" continues through May 27 at the Dance Loft on 14, 4618 14th St NW. Tickets available online.