The 1913 premiere of The Rite of Spring almost caused a riot. Unconventional choreography and shockingly dissonant music provoked anger from the Parisian audience and in Stravinsky's letter home he wrote that ‘things got as far as fighting'.
Saintus' reworking of The Rite of Spring subverts the original narrative of Stravinsky's iconic work challenging the notion of a female sacrifice – instead we see characters from Haitian folklore come to life telling their story of ritual, ceremony and celebration.
Performed by Phoenix Dance Theatre's eight Company Dancers, The Rite of Spring is set in two movements and follows three central figures from Haitian folklore; Ogou a spirit that rules over fire, iron, war and blacksmiths, the Marasa, the divine twins and Damballa the serpent spirit and creator of life. By presenting these narratives Saintus' work challenges the western stereotypes and dark themes often associated with vodou and instead presents these rituals in a new celebratory light.
Saintus reconsiders the concept of sacrifice originally explored by Stravinsky and instead explores concepts of offerings that are regularly seen in Caribbean culture. The promise in Haitian tradition is the offering one makes during the initiation into the vodou religion and acts as the first section to Saintus' reworking. From this initial promise the dancers collectively demonstrate the rituals practiced in Haitian philosophy and embody the characteristics of each spirit, not one dancer plays a character throughout, instead each performer articulates different movements informed by the characteristics of the three spirits. A focal point in The Rite of Spring is the central potomitan, a pillar or altar found in front of vodou temples. The dancers make their offerings to the potomitan in hope of evoking the Loa, spirits of Haitian vodou.
The work builds towards the final celebratory ceremony where the performers wait to be overcome by the female spirit Erzuli. Who will be chosen?
The Rite of Spring is in association with Opera North.