Thursday 23 March 2006

Rite of Spring

The other night, we finally caught up with the BBC Television dramatisation of the events behind the premiere of The Rite of Spring, mixing drama with a complete performance of the ballet (danced by Finnish National Ballet). As drama, it worked pretty well but I thought that the script was guilty of trying to encapsulate Diaghilev and Nijinsky's entire relationship in the 45 minute drama (the programme lasted 90 minutes of which 45 were devoted to the performance of the ballet). I was particularly worried about the way the drama of creating the new ballet played out against the backdrop of Nijinsky falling in love with Romola. I'd have to go back to Richard Buckle's biography to check the facts, it all felt a little too pat.

What was a revelation was the ballet itself, performed whilst the audience actually did catcall and boo. The revelation was that it seemed so contrived and dated, hardly revolutionary at all and not terribly interesting. It is perhaps significant that when Diaghilev came to revive The Rite of Spring in a subsequent season, no-one could remember any of the steps (and Nijinsky was too ill by this time), so that Massine choreographed an entirely new score.

One piece of history was not re-enacted; the moment when Nijinsky gets so annoyed with the dancer playing the Chosen Maiden that he demonstrates the choreography himself. The result was to startling that everyone agreed that it was a shame that Nijinsky did not create a role for himself in the ballet. The dancer playing the Chosen Virgin was in fact chosen because she was the tallest in the company, not the most gifted.

The ballet classes and rehearsals had an interesting element of realism, the 'dancers ' did not all have the perfect bodies that we anticipate nowadays!

On a final, picky note, I was worried that Marie Rambert was referred to as Marie Rambert, I suspect that she was still called Miriam Ramberg at that time, though again I'd have to consult the biographies to check.

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