An event by the Federal Cultural Foundation and the Center of Movement Research at the Freie Universität Berlin

Twisted feet, snapped heads, jarring, abrupt movements, rhythmic stomping and trembling. In the end, death by exhaustion, the staged sacrifice for the heathen sun god. Dancing – excessive, powerful, disturbing.

The premiere of “Le Sacre du Printemps” at the Parisian Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on 29 May 1913 shocked audiences. Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography and Igor Stravinsky’s music created one of the greatest scandals in 20th-century dance history. Performed on the eve of World War I, the ballet uncannily foreshadowed the slaughter on the battlefields: “Le Sacre du Printemps” – a dance over trenches.

One hundred years later, an international and interdisciplinary conference has addressed the special role that “Le Sacre du Printemps” played in dance modernity and as a cultural-historical phenomenon. The debate focused on the aspects of victims and sacrifice, the relationship between abstraction and ornamentation, and the peculiar interweave of modernism and primitivism. What exactly caused the uproar at the premiere in 1913 and what relevance does the piece have today?

More than 500 visitors participated in debates and discussions, and over 2,000 people watched the performances staged at RADIALSYSTEM V and the HAU Hebbel am Ufer theatre. One of the artistic highlights of the congress was the reconstruction of Mary Wigman’s “The Rite of Spring” (1957), performed by the dance ensembles at the theatres in Osnabrück und Bielefeld. Another highlight was “The Autumn of Le Sacre du Printemps”, a reconstruction of Nijinsky’s choreography performed by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer together with 20 members of the Sasha Waltz & Guests dance company. The scenographer Detlef Weitz and artist Dominique Müller presented a video installation created especially for the congress, featuring clips of various performances of “The Rite of Spring”. Earlier this year, the HAU Hebbel am Ufer launched an open call for treatments of the “Rite of Spring” by young choreographers. A selection of these contemporary approaches to the “Dance over Trenches” was presented at the congress.

Concept: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Brandstetter / Center of Movement Research (Zentrum für Bewegungsforschung)

With: Jan Assmann, Gabriele Brandstetter, Laurent Chétouane, deufert&plischke, Christine Gaigg, Lynn Garafola, Jack Halberstam, Millicent Hodson, Stephanie Jordan, Herfried Münkler, Sasha Waltz, Sigrid Weigel and others

An event by the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal Cultural Foundation) and the Zentrum für Bewegungsforschung (Center of Movement Research) at the Freie Universität Berlin in cooperation with the TANZFONDS ERBE (DANCE HERITAGE FUND), RADIALSYSTEM V and HAU Hebbel am Ufer.

  • Thursday, 14. November 2013

    4:30 pm, Opening
    Welcoming address Hortensia Völckers

    4:45 pm
    Gabriele Brandstetter

    Tanz über Gräben. The Rites of Spring 1913/2013

    The Rite of Spring(Le Sacre du Printemps) premiered in 1913 in the midst of a tense European setting. The performance provoked one of the greatest scandals in dance history just a year before the outbreak of World War I. A century has passed since, and although no authorised record of Nijinsky’s choreography exists, The Rite of Spring has become a canonical work. Looking back, questions arise regarding the work’s historical context in 1913, as well as the history of successive productions. For example, in what way does Nijinsky’s choreography merge the break with classical ballet aesthetics and the fascination with primitivism at the start of modernity? The theme of ›sacrifice‹ lies at the centre of The Rite of Spring and its history of reception. Might the ritual sacrifice of a ›chosen‹ young woman in a death dance foreshadow the violence and ›state of emergency‹ of World War I – a »dance over the trenches« (Modris Eksteins)? And how do choreographers today address the offensive elements in The Rite of Spring and the aesthetic and political challenges it poses?

    5:30 pm Break

    6:00 pm
    The Rite of Springby Mary Wigman
    A Reconstruction by the Theater Osnabrück and Theater Bielefeld

    The world premiere of Mary Wigman’s version of The Rite of Spring took place at the Städtische Oper Berlin in1957, performed by the theatre’s own ballet ensemble. The only documentation of this choreography exists in sketches, photos, stage notes and especially the knowledge of dancers who participated in the piece over 50 years ago. Based on this material, Henrietta Horn, Susan Barnett and Katharine Sehnert will reconstruct Wigman’s choreography. They will be supported by Wigman’s former students and dancers Emma Lew Thomas and Brigitta Herrmann from the USA.

    Wigman’s Rite of Spring was her last dance work, a choral piece for 45 dancers, starring Dore Hoyer in the role of the ›Chosen One‹. As in other previous productions, she uncompromisingly expressed the central theme of her life and her vision of dance, i.e. sacrificing oneself in the service of an idea that surpasses all personal ambitions. »The human sacrifice is the symbol of the sacrifice that every person, in dying, must pay to life so that its flow is unobstructed.« (Mary Wigman)

    This reconstruction project aims to restage Wigman’s version of The Rite of Spring as faithfully as possible using the existing materials and featuring a new generation of dancers. More importantly, it will allow us to reexamine and discuss one of the most important works of the 20th century by one of Germany’s pioneering dance artists.

    The DANCE HERITAGE FUND, a programme initiated by the Federal Cultural Foundation, supports artistic projects dedicated to the cultural heritage of dance. Reconstructions, installations, symposiums and other artistic formats reflect the broad spectrum of German dance history and are extensively documented on

    Reconstruct The Rite of Spring?
    Discussion with Susan Barnett, Henrietta Horn, Madeline Ritter and Patricia Stöckemann
    Moderator: Claudia Henne

    8:00 pm
    Opening Le Cercle
    Video installation by Detlef Weitz and Dominique Müller

    The three-part, wall-to-wall video installation by Detlef Weitz and Dominique Müller highlights significant moments of The Rite of Spring, the eruptive event of 1913 whose tremors can still be felt today. Three oversized screens in the room form a floating fragment depicting the distinct character of the sacrificial circle in Nijinsky’s choreography. These fabric-covered walls illustrated with figurines (design: Andree Volkmann) call to mind the original costumes designed by Roerich. Two different videos of choreographies from the past 100 years are projected onto a background matrix, comprised not of mythic-like patterns, but ornaments, printed with ambiguous war motifs which create visual rhythms of their own.

    The first film collage presents short sequences of footage from more than twenty productions, pieced together as a continuous collage of movement and artistically analyses the main themes and features of its 100-year-long performance history. The second video presents a centering pattern of rhythmic movements, created by multiple reflections. The rhythm of Stravinsky’s music brings order to the chaos and forms forceful, strangely beautiful patterns. The legs, arms and heads of the dancers appear and vanish to the time of the music as if a gigantic machine were dispassionately sucking them up, or even devouring them at an industrial pace: A dance over trenches in the coming brutal war?

    9:00 pm, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU1)

    Sacré Sacre du Printemps
    Laurent Chétouane

    In The Rite of Spring, the foreign element is situated at the centre of society, but is assimilated as such and thus is bereft of its original foreignness. This is the starting point for Chétouane’s further considerations, which he explores in his choreography. How can we allow the foreign element to remain foreign? In a thematic shift from the ritualistic ›spring sacrifice‹ to a choreographic and visual ›sacrifice‹ of The Rite of Spring itself, Chétouane addresses our inability to accept the foreign element with all its differences. The three-part performance with seven dancers presents a vision of coexistence with the foreign and its non-representability by musically contrasting Stravinsky’s original piece with a new composition by Leo Schmidthals.

    Performing artists: Matthieu Burner, Joris Camelin, Kathryn Enright, Joséphine Evrard, Charlie Fouchier, Mikael Marklund, Senem Gökçe Oğultekin
    Music: Igor Stravinsky, Leo Schmidthals

    Coproducers: Ruhrtriennale, PACT Zollverein Essen, Tanzquartier Wien, Theater Bremen, Rencontres chorégraphiques de Seine-Saint-Denis (France), Kaaitheater Brüssel, Kampnagel Hamburg.
    Funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation, the Governing Mayor of Berlin – Senate Chancellery – Cultural Affairs and by the Performing Arts Fund.

    Friday, 15. November 2013

    Moderator Lucia Ruprecht

    10:00 am
    Lynn Garafola
    A Century of Rites. The Making of an Avant-Garde Tradition

    Since the premiere of The Rite of Spring in 1913, scores of choreographic works to the celebrated Stravinsky music have seen the light of day. Most have vanished as quickly as Nijinsky’s original ballet. But they keep coming; seemingly the idea of the now legendary work, coupled with its memorable score, poses a challenge few could resist. What accounts for the ballet’s staying power? What ideologies and impulses do these Rites seem to espouse and what conventions reject, and why have they retained their imaginative force? This paper argues that The Rite of Spring, precisely because it is a lost ballet, comprises a body of ideas rather than a detailed choreographic script, and that this conceptual freedom allows both for the ballet’s continuing reinvention and for the persistence of ideas associated with the original. Thus, The Rite defies the ephemeral nature of dance by creating a “canon of memory” that allows for the survival of multiple lost forms through the palimpsests of later productions.

    10:45 am
    Stephanie Jordan
    Sacre as Dance Machine. Recent Re-Visions

    No other score can boast such a tradition of dance productions. Hundreds of choreographers over the century have been both thrilled by the power and energy of Stravinsky’s score and shocked by its statement. Fascination with that ambiguity has given rise to a range of treatments: casts both large and small, period as well as contemporary settings, different narrative approaches and cultural diversity.

    Perhaps prompted by the 1987 Nijinsky reconstruction and a surge of interest in the Sacre legacy, some choreographers, especially since the 1980s, have explored its theme with a new sense of irony and fresh awareness of the burden of its past. According to their terms, no longer can this score be danced ‘straight’. It is perhaps, too, as if Pina Bausch’s 1975 Sacre, which has achieved classic status, represented the end of a line.

    Using Bausch’s landmark initiative as a point of contrast, the paper discusses Sacres by such choreographers as Paul Taylor, Jérôme Bel, Xavier Le Roy and Mark Morris, work that explores identity, relations between audience and performers, authorial power and dark humour. New ways of asserting the physicality and driving force of the score are also considered, such as taking machine motion to an absurd extreme as well as experimenting with a more flexible, or even entirely negative, musicality: the dance not being motorised by Stravinsky.

    11:45 am Break

    12:15 pm

    Moderators Jana Schuster and Alexander Schwan

    12:30 pm
    Herfried Münkler
    Mythic Sacrifices and Real Corpses

    In autumn 1914, Friedrich Meinecke described the German casualties along the Yser Canal as a »springtime sacrifice«. In view of the fact that the Battle of Ypers – called the Battle of Langemarck in Germany – took place in autumn, this reference was not just about the fallen, but about the salvation and redemption which had been made possible through their sacrifice, a concept which first appeared in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. This view revealed a fundamental break with that of the Enlightenment which sought to overcome the role of sacrifice. In the place of historical-theoretical principles of progress, the beginning of the 20th century was taken by the idea of aging empires and societies whose political and social orders could only be rejuvenated and renewed by sacrifice. This revaluation of the significance of sacrifice strengthened the willingness to go to war in the first months of World War I – especially among the student population. The suggestion of the sacrificial resisted the promise of the Enlightenment to do away with sacrifice.

    1:15 pm Lunch

    2:15 pm

    Michael Welker
    Sacrifice, Victim, Sin and Atonement

    In modern cultures, the discussion of sacrifice, victim, sin and atonement has become convoluted and is frequently misused and abused. The problems begin with the inability of many languages to clearly distinguish the terms ›sacrifice‹ and ›victim‹ (in German, both are translated as ›Opfer‹). When we speak of traffic victims, war victims and drug victims, we express (albeit dishonestly and fatalistically) a tragic inevitability behind their deaths. Discourse regarding sin is similarly misconstrued. Modern societies are reluctant to consider the powerlessness of their political, legal, moral and religious instruments. Sin, on the other hand, focuses on massive self-endangerment, demonstrating to what extent these instruments have reached their limits or have even been corrupted. And atonement is associated with the seemingly archaic concepts of revenge and retribution, which should have no place in contemporary legal and ethical discourse and completely refute a ›theology of atonement‹.

    This lecture will outline the relationships between sacrifice, victim, sin, atonement and the rationality behind them in view of biblical traditions. It will show that the normativity which characterises these expressions are rooted in a deep awareness of suffering and hardship, and above all, the effort to provide normative and religious support and orientation to human existence which finds itself at the brink of massive self-endangerment and mortal doom.

    3:00 pm
    Sigrid Weigel
    The Cultic and Art Value of Sacrifice. The Afterlife of Pagan and Christian Images of Sacrifice in Modern Dance and Music Theatre

    This lecture investigates how the figure of sacrifice is presented on stage in modern music theatre and dance theatre productions in two steps –- first, in terms of its cultural-historical signature and second, the comparison between The Rite of Spring and other configurations of sacrifice in music theatre around 1900.

    In this lecture, I intend to discuss Stravinsky’s and Roerich’s reference to ›pagan Russia‹ in the subtitle of The Rite of Spring in connection with the question posed around 1900 concerning the continued existence of pagan antiquity in the »pathos formulas« of European culture (Aby Warburg). The focus of the discussion will be on the ambivalence of the victim in the sacrificial dance, the connection between distinction and death, and the function of the sacrifice for the community. These aspects will be assessed on the basis of various religious-historic references to sacrificial concepts.

    With the aid of Walter Benjamin’s distinction between cultic value and art value, I will investigate how the sacrificial figure changed during its transferral to the dance and music theatre stage. Furthermore, I will compare the sacrificial dance in The Rite of Spring with the existence of sacrificial elements of pagan and Christian origin in other works, for example, Wagner’s Parsifal (1882), Zemlinsky’s Traumgörge (1904/06) and Strauss’ Salome (1905).

    3:45 pm
    Burkhardt Wolf
    The Autumn of Primitivism. Sacrifice and Social Regeneration before the Great War

    The premiere of The Rite of Spring coincided with the publication of Totem and Taboo in 1913. While Sigmund Freud examined the gamut of contemporary theories on sacrifice to support his claim of a deeply rooted relationship between the inner life and the social behaviour of the ›primitive‹ and modern neurotics, Stravinsky revealed the ›decadent‹ desire for antiquity in the artistic fin de siècle with a scandalous, seemingly barbaric sensation. Against this backdrop, it could be argued that 1913 witnessed a final wave of anthropological theories and their corresponding aesthetics in which a reversion to ›wild‹ social rituals still served as a guarantee for their regenerative potential. Viewed from this perspective, The Rite of Spring hit the stage at exactly the same moment as primitivistic social theories were waning in relevance and, with the outbreak of war, would require fundamental revision in line with Stravinsky’s scenarios. If the initially provocative modernism was an orchestration of that which is long past, as Adorno claims, then perhaps its motivation was not only musical, but ›ideological‹ as well.

    4:30 pm Break

    5:00 pm
    Inge Baxmann
    Sacrifice and Devotion as Cultural Criticism. Dance and the Liturgical Community in Modern Times

    In the early 20th century, dance became a model of community, whose ties to a willingness to sacrifice and unconditional devotion were linked to transcendent ideals. Counter to a contractual model between society and politics in which »each seeks his own advantage and makes a good business deal« as Ernst Bloch stated in The Spirit of Utopia (1918), dancers like Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman regarded dance as a liturgical or cultic expression. Liturgies were originally ecstatic dances around an altar, the rhythmic movements were a form of communication with the gods and the incommensurate, which also fostered community-building. In modern times, group and mass choreographies especially strived to revive these community-building energies. The tragic element, the »fateful connection« (Mary Wigman) and sacrifice became culturally critical figures of interpretation, which many hoped would intensify life and renew society.

    These group and mass choreographies were later integrated into political demonstrations which expressed a new political spirit. Instead of public debates and rational consensus between individuals, this form of political association (or rather, community) was based on a shared ecstatic experience. As one commentator described at the time, the meta-communication of rhythmic vibrations was supposed to »set [political] sentiments in motion.«

    5:30 pm
    Nikolaus Müller-Schöll
    Gestures of Surrendering (the Art). On the task of the performer in Laurent Chétouane’s "Sacré Sacre du Printemps"

    In what might be called one of the most sophisticated readings of Kant’s Analytics of the Sublime, the French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy argues that what is offering itself in the sublime is the offering (›l’offrande‹) as such. What we face in the sublime is an experience of a limit: "… at the limit of the art", he writes, "there is the gesture of offering: the gesture which is offering the art and the gesture by which the art touches its limit." ("… à la limite de l’art, il y a le geste de l’offrande: le geste qui offre l’art, et le geste par lequel l’art lui-même touche à sa limite.") In my lecture, I would like to connect this specific reading of the Kantian sublime to one of the most courageous recent variations on The Rite of Spring, namely to Sacré Sacre du Printemps, a choreography by Laurent Chétouane. As I would like to argue this choreographic work is all about how one can touch a limit within dance: The moment when dance reaches a point where it is neither art nor some kind of stereotypical ›nature‹ but rather something in between. In this moment, a body is exposed which is both condition as well as the limit of the dancer’s performance. By relating Sacré Sacre du Printemps to some other works of Chétouane’s, I will show that his different works are similar in that they all try to bring forth the Aufgabe (task, but as well giving up) of the performer.

    6:00 pm
    Sacrifice and Society. The Politics of Choreography
    Discussion with Inge Baxmann, Nikolaus Müller-Schöll, Laurent Chétouane
    Moderator Gabriele Brandstetter

    6:45 pm Break

    8:00 pm
    Josep Caballero García

    SACRES is a solo dance piece for a man about his encounter with Le Sacre du Printemps: with the myth of its premiere(s), memories of the famous choreographies of Vaslav Nijinsky (in the reconstruction by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer) and the celebrated version of Pina Bausch. Which questions does Sacre ask out of our perspective and how can they be used to benefit from the heritage of Nijinsky and Bausch in order to carry it on?

    With the help of re-construction and de-construction of movement material, the iconic piece is demystified. At the same time a new perspective on Le Sacre du Printemps is created out of an emotional and very personal examination of the piece. The confrontation with copyrights is posing very basic questions, however: What actually defines Le Sacre du Printemps? When is Sacre really Sacre? What is allowed to be shown, danced, or played? SACRES is operating at the limits of these restrictions, outraged, driven, angry, beaten.

    Idea, Choreography, Dance: Josep Caballero García, Music: Full of Hell: Affirmation of Nothing, Dramaturgic Collaboration: Claudia Jeschke, Mira Moschallski

    Funded by Kunststiftung NRW and Fonds Darstellende Künste e.V.
    With the support of tanzhaus nrw Düsseldorf.

    8:00 pm, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU2)
    Sacre 100 # 1

    The HAU Hebbel am Ufer theatre launched an open call for proposals by young choreographers residing in Germany on the topic of The Right of Spring. A total of 54 artistic concepts were submitted to the HAU for consideration. The proposals included a wide range of approaches – from addressing sociopolitical references to exploring specific qualities of the musical and choreographic material of The Rite of Spring. In August 2013, a jury selected ten projects from the pool of submitted proposals for presentation during the Dance over Trenches congress to be held at the HAU Hebbel am Ufer this November. The winning projects were chosen for their unflinching and serious approach to this canonical piece, their originality and their sharp perspectives.

    In his essay "On the Concept of History", Walter Benjamin writes "For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably." The program Sacre 100 wishes to go beyond a mere historicism in the field of the performative arts. The aim is to draw attention to this historic work, fostering not only its study, but also promoting new approaches to the issues which get raised by The Rite of Spring to this day.

    Featuring works by: Marcela Giesche, Jorge Hoyos and Nir Vidan, Milla Koistinen, Melanie Lane, Adam Linder, Lea Moro, Kenji Ouellet, Tian Rotteveel, Kareth Schaffer, Netta Yerushalmy

    Saturday, 16 November 2013

    10:00 am
    Moderators Sarah Burkhalter and
Lucia Ruprecht

    10:15 am
    Christian Spies
    Tradition and/or Innovation. The Use of Ornament circa 1900

    At the turn of the 20th century, opinions diverged when it came to the use of ornament. For some, ornamentation was an emblem of ossified historicism. It represented a primitive desire for embellishment and was even decried as a crime. For others, the use of ornament was a sign of artistic ambition, which at the beginning of modernity, signified the innovation of autonomous artwork. Although ornament was regarded by many artists as mere decoration, the use of ornament began playing an increasingly central role in the arts especially during the early years of abstraction. In fact, it appears that tradition and innovation went hand-in-hand in the ornamentation around 1900.

    With regard to the fine arts, ornament was clearly used in the first performance of The Rite of Spring, in particular, in the dancers’ costumes designed by Nicholas Roerich. These were modeled after popular, traditional garments. In combination with the set design, a scene was presented, in which tradition was shifted to the fore. This in turn highlighted the novelty of the innovative choreography all the more distinctly.

    If we consider a more general notion of ornamentation and regard the dancers’ geometric figures of movement and the rhythmic structures of the music as ornaments as well, then these merge with the traditional ornamentation of the costumes. In this sense, the use of ornament not only functions as a joint connecting the set design, dance and music, but defines the relationship between tradition and innovation – one that is not merely dichotomous by default.

    11:00 am
    Jane Pritchard
    Treasures from Le Sacre du Printemps. Surviving Material from Productions for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Held in the Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

    The Department of Theatre and Performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum has the richest collection of theatre material from the original Roerich-designed, Nijinsky-choreographed production of The Rite of Spring. The illustrated presentation will look at the museum’s holdings ranging from costumes and accessories and documentation for the costumes through to programmes, press and promotional material. It will also examine the rich collection of pencil and pastel drawings by Valentine Gross. The presentation emphasises the importance of primary materials and will conclude with a brief look at the immediate reaction to the innovative ballet not via riots in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées but spoof productions on stage.

    11:45 am Break

    12:15 pm
    Georg Witte
    The Dance of Language

    Though both pieces premiered in 1913, the ›archaic‹ Rite of Spring and the ›futuristic‹ opera Victory over the Sun, appear to be worlds apart. However, these two polar events of Russian modernity do share a common penchant for the elementary and original dimension of expressive forms, be it physical, verbal, graphic or musical in nature. In this context, concepts regarding the gestural primacy of language are particularly significant. Poetic language may be viewed as dancing language when based on the connection between the gestural and ornamental. Playwrights and critics (e.g. Nikolai Evreinov, Sergei Volkonsky) have postulated a close correlation between the rhythmic movement of the body and spoken language. The tension between expressive movement and rhythmic-abstract movement can also be identified in language.
    The dance of language is visually transferred onto the written form of poetic text. In the futuristic manifesto The Letter as Such (1913), the poets Velimir Chlebnikov und Aleksei Kručenych call for the liberation of letters from the typographical »prison garb« and »formation in rank and file«. The expressive and ornamental textures which they suggest as alternatives are rooted in a gesturally-based script. Moreover, the acoustic dimension of poetic language is represented in the image of dance. According to Viktor Šklovsky, the poetic word differs from every-day utterances in the same way dance differs from walking. The symbolist Andrei Bely describes the poetic glossolalia as a primal dance of the tongue in the cavity of the mouth.

    1:00 pm Lunch

    2:00 pm

    Matthew McDonald
    Rhythmic Reinvention in The Rite

    Nijinsky’s choreography of The Rite of Spring "no longer has any ties whatsoever to the classical ballet," wrote Jacques Rivière in his famous review of the premiere: "Here, everything has been started anew, everything fashioned on the spot, everything reinvented." Stravinsky’s score also captured this sense of reinvention, but whereas virtually all commentators agree on the novelty of Stravinsky’s score and its irregular rhythmic patterns, opinion has been divided regarding its design and the effect of these patterns on listeners. On one side, Theodor W. Adorno argued that Stravinsky’s rhythms seem to have arisen from "the throw of the dice." Many scholars have argued otherwise, however, characterising these rhythms as logically patterned and deliberately crafted.
    In this lecture, I will suggest that Stravinsky employed a fundamentally mechanical, ›automated‹ procedure for generating his irregular rhythms and metrical schemes, one that ultimately provided a template for Nijinsky’s choreographic innovations. Specifically, Stravinsky seems to have converted intervallic series, derived from prominent chords or melodies, into durational ones, equating intervals measured in semitones with durations measured in beats. This claim is supported by a wealth of evidence drawn from the sketches, autographs, and earliest printed editions of the score, and it applies to the opening of virtually every titled section of The Rite. Recognition of this procedure and its symbolic meanings provides a new perspective on how Stravinsky’s rhythms aided Nijinsky in his efforts to bypass balletic conventions and to reveal, in Nijinsky’s words, "the soul of nature expressed by movement to music."

    2:45 pm
    David J. Levin
    Embodiment and Displacement.
    Adorno, Stravinsky and The Rite of Spring

    In the course of his critique of Stravinsky, Theodor W. Adorno famously argued that Stravinsky’s music denied the musical subject a basis from which to engage the rhythmic displacement that so forcefully and so thoroughly characterised his music. Unlike the modernist practices which Adorno celebrated, the rhythmic strategies of Stravinsky’s music purportedly stood in for a compositional practice that cancelled meaningful critical engagement. The question that I propose to pursue in this paper involves a dimension that Adorno, in his critique, tended to disregard, namely, the role of mise-en-scene in the disposition of Stravinsky’s work. What happens when the auditor is also a spectator, when the composition in question is staged, its musical discourse supplemented by embodied action? More specifically, what role does mise-en-scene play in the constitution and circulation of displacement? And given the range and diversity of productions of The Rite of Spring, could one imagine a choreographic practice that displaces the displacement? What would such a practice entail? And what would be its consequences?

    3:30 pm Break

    4:00 pm
    Moderators Maren Butte and Susanne Foellmer

    4:15 pm

    Jack Halberstam
    World’s End: Death, Dinosaurs and Dance

    In Disney’s Fantasia (1940), the animated sequence that accompanies Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is a dark and violent piece about the extinction of the dinosaurs. The narrator introduces the segment by making a connection between the primitivism that inspired Stravinsky’s music and the emergence of life on earth. Just as Stravinsky’s music and Nijinsky’s ballet reach back to a fantasy of primal sacrifice in order to express the brutal forces within modernity, so Disney’s Fantasia builds upon these earlier texts to draw out the violence lurking in the heart of childhood itself. In this talk, I will use the dinosaur sequence from Fantasia to discuss two different strands of thought that find expression in The Rite of Spring. In one, we find a punk sensibility that articulates rage, riot and wildness and that influences the punk gestures and noises of bands like The Sex Pistols and The Slits in the 1970s. In the other, we find a politics of death, destruction and sacrifice that succumbs to the logic of the survival of the fittest and that demands a ritual sacrifice of the weak in order to bond the community of the strong. How can we hold on to the anarchistic wildness of The Rite of Spring without feeding in to its atavistic fantasies of degeneration and pollution? How do we read the colonial fantasies of primitive others that form its core now? What are the aesthetic legacies of The Rite of Spring not only in ballet and classical music but in relation to punk rock, queer anarchy and contemporary obessions with the end of the world? What do we do now with this dance of death?

    5:00 pm
    Stefanie Diekmann
    No Dinos. De-Figuration in Disney’s Fantasia/The Rite of Spring (1940)

    Among the animated films which comprise the programme of Walt Disney’s Fantasia (USA 1940), the fourth one – based on a shortened, modified version of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring – is particularly exceptional. As in the other episodes, in particular the introductory episode featuring Bach’s Toccata in D Minor and the concluding episode with Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, there is a transition from figuration to de-figuration, from conventional animation to abstract choreography. However, TheRite of Spring episode also contains distinct references to abstract cinematic works of the 1920s, animation films of the historic avant-garde, Cinéma Pur, as well as formal experiments by such film artists as Len Lye, which were being carried out around the same time. This lecture focuses less on the rather choppy evolutionary depiction portrayed in the first three chapters of Fantasia, and more on the relationship between Disney’s cinematographic work with ornamentation, abstract choreography and de-figuration – an aspect, located in an entirely different place in the aesthetic spectrum of historic animated films.

    5:45 pm
    Massacre Masqué. Theatre as Living Environment
    Lecture Demonstration

    One can argue that the audience played the leading role at the world premiere of The Rite of Spring in 1913. Not only the choreography on stage, but also the agitation among the viewers in the audience were elementary parts of the performance and played an integral role in making The Rite of Spring the legend that it is today. In their ironic piece Massacre Masqué (2013), the artistic duo deufert&plischke return the Rite of Spring to its original main character – the audience.

    Since 2001, Kattrin Deufert and Thomas Plischke have been developing theatre spaces, which, like epic landscapes, beg to be used as venues of movement. deufert&plischke reject the idea of theatre which produces frontal and cinematographic images from a critical distance. Instead, they aim to create narrative theatre which throws the audience into a maelstrom of proximity, detail, participation and vitality. In this way, theatre can be a place where the artists are no longer solely responsible for what happens, but where everyone shares the responsibility. Only then can the institution of theatre reformulate, refine and reposition itself and, in so doing, become a parliament, academy and living environment for many.

    Away with the audience of experts! Long live epic theatre that invites everyone to use their bodies!

    6:30 pm Break

    8:00 pm
    The Autumn of Le Sacre du Printemps
    Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer with dancers from Sasha Waltz & Guests
    Lecture Performance

    Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer will present selected scenes from their reconstruction of The Rite of Spring after Vaslav Nijinsky, working together with dancers from the company Sasha Waltz & Guests. In a lecture performance, these dance excerpts will be placed in the context of Jacques Rivière’s review, published in November 1913 six months after its tumultuous premiere, and which fundamentally exemplify the modernity of Nijinsky’s choreography.
    Archer and Hodson met Sasha Waltz at a presentation of their reconstruction of this famous piece in Warsaw in 2011. Waltz and several of her dancers attended the rehearsals and wondered why the reconstruction had never been undertaken by artists of contemporary dance. The discussion led to a workshop in Berlin in 2012, which this lecture demonstration at RADIALSYSTEM V will continue and combine with text passages by Jacques Rivière.

    Followed by a discussion with Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer
    Moderator: Yvonne Hardt

    8:00 pm, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU2)

    Sacre 100 # 2

    8:00 pm, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU1)

    Sacré Sacre du Printemps
    Laurent Chétouane

    Sunday, 17 November 2013

    11:00 am

    “We have forgotten how to sacrifice.”
    Discussion with Sasha Waltz et al.
    Moderator Claudia Jeschke

    For Sasha Waltz, Stravinsky’s composition of the century, The Rite of Spring, bundles several thematic strands which have fascinated her since the beginning of her career. In the piece Na Zemlje (1999), for example, we can recognise elements of her work on rituals, the subject of sacrifice, the individual and the group. In Medea (2007), Jagden und Formen (Zustand 2008) and Continu (2010), she continued to explore these themes in ever increasing depth.
    “I have long been interested in archaic myths and rites which conjure the power and sublime order of nature. In today’s highly technologised world, the powers of nature appear to come in the form of catastrophes. Rituals, on the other hand, depict the cyclic structure of nature and explore the relationship between human beings and their origin. Faith and the relationship to a higher power are strengthened; the individual sacrifices himself for the benefit of society.” (Sasha Waltz, January 2013)

    12:00 pm
    Nicola Gess
    “That is how far we must go back so as not to merely ‘antiquitise’.” Primitivism and Modernity in Literature, Art and Music of the Early 20th Century

    This lecture situates Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in a human- and art-scientific discourse of the early 20th century – a time marked by a fascination with the ›primitive‹ which could be found in various figures, be it in indigenous, rural or medieval cultures, in children or the mentally ill, and in various styles – from abstraction to the extreme visual realism. The discourse hopes the art to be genealogically and even ontologically substantiated and radically renewed by ›the primitive‹. Although the term ›primitivism‹ has long been established in art history, this lecture will also demonstrate its relevance for modern literature and music, examine its specific characteristics and make repeated references to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. References to sacrifice and formal abstraction will be highlighted as important primitivistic themes of literary and art-theoretical discussions.

    12:45 pm
    Jan Assmann
    The ›Primeval‹ as a Breakthrough into the Unprecedented. Memory and Expectation in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring

    In describing The Rite of Spring, Theodor W. Adorno wrote in 1949, »His music is devoid of recollection and consequently lacking in any time continuum of permanence. Its course lies in reflexes.« In this statement, Adorno undoubtedly emphasised one of the work’s central aspects, but also undercut the vital role which time and memory play in the piece nonetheless. Firstly, this concerns the invocation of the archaic, the »primeval«, as Thomas Mann describes it in his novel Doctor Faustus. The protagonist Adrian Leverkühn is obsessed with the question »How is one released? How is one set free?« and the devil responds, »We offer only the right and true – that is no longer the classical, my friend, what we give to experience, it is the archaic, the primeval, that which long since has not been tried.« Thomas Mann set this dialogue in 1912/13 – the same time The Rite of Spring was being produced.
    For his »Pictures from Pagan Russia«, Stravinsky invokes the archaic by incorporating traditional musical motifs and giving them a space which certainly creates a time continuum and infuses the work with the type of identity that Adorno repudiates. In fact, its representation of the primeval is what makes The Rite of Spring a milestone of modernity.

    1:30 pm Lunch

    2:30 pm
    Elena Vereschagina
    French versus Russian in The Rite of Spring

    In a letter to Florent Schmitt, dated 20 July 1911, Stravinsky wrote, »I play only French music - yours, Debussy, Ravel«. Clearly, the attraction to Russian and French art was as strong as ever in those creative years of composing The Rite of Spring (1911-13). Paris was described as ›The Central Station‹ of Europe, and Picasso, Stravinsky and Modigliani were named by Cocteau as the most important French artists (though none of them were native French). The international avant-garde and aristocratic trends (which aimed to present and confirm national traditions) stood in opposition to each other in terms of critical opinion, but co-existed on the concert poster. This is evident, for example, in the practice of the Russian seasons (both addressed to the aristocracy and Bohemians) and in the aesthetic programme of Countess de Greffuhle, Diaghilev’s chief patroness in Paris, which included the revived French antiquity (Anacréon Rameau) on the one hand, and Handel, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Elgar and Scriabin on the other. National tradition, enlightened cosmopolitanism and orientalism constituted a whole »governmentality« (Michel Foucault) that determined pre-war cultural policy. But that, which is perceived in the French context as an exoticism at the boundaries of the Western world, is an internal affair for the creators of the Russian seasons. From this point of view, the tamed, ornamental evil spirits of The Firebird (an adequate response to the demands of Western Orientalism) seem unsatisfactory. The Rite of Spring integrates chronological layers of its creation period (from the initial idea to the premiere night), combines the unique approaches of its co-authors (librettist, set designer, choreographer and composer), and ultimately becomes a comprehensive study of the national myth.

    3:15 pm
    Christine Gaigg
    DeSacre! Pussy Riot Meets Vaslav Nijinsky

    Art explains art: In my choreographic project DeSacre! (premiere April 2013), I along with seven dancers staged the video footage depicting Pussy Riot’s artistic demonstration in the Christ the Saviour cathedral in Moscow on 21 February 2012. Based on Vaslav Nijinsky’s choreography The Rite of Spring which evoked a scandal 100 years ago, I showed how art works – when presented at the right place at the right time – can put their finger on the sore spot of society.
    Though developed 100 years apart, these two choreographic texts illuminate each other and reveal what they have in common, i.e. their unconditionality and gestural vocabulary. Applying methods of re-enactment and film analysis in our rehearsal process, we discovered evidence supporting the claim that the Pussy Riot performance was a conceptually well-planned artistic and completely non-violent action. These aspects were not addressed during the court proceedings against the young women. Therefore, DeSacre! is something like a post-trial, art- and communication-theoretical expert appraisal. In my lecture, I will discuss how I gained astounding insights by using the dancers’ knowledge of their bodies and the competence of the Russian translator Erich Klein during the rehearsal process.

    5:00 pm, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU2)

    Sacre 100 # 1

    6:00 pm

    The Autumn of Le Sacre du Printemps
    Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer with dancers from Sasha Waltz & Guests
    Lecture Performance

    8:00 pm, HAU Hebbel am Ufer (HAU2)

    Sacre 100 # 2

E-flyer and pro­gramme book­let

An e-flyer containing a programme overview and the complete programme booklet are now available as PDF downloads.

Conference e-flyer

Programme booklet (PDF)


Antonia Lahmé
Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Franckeplatz 2

06110 Halle (Saale)

Tel.: +49 (0)345 2997 117

Fax.: +49 (0)345 2997 333