Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Photo: © Jochen Viehoff
Used with permission

First performed December 3, 1975

"The first thing I did was to talk to them about what 'Sacre' means to me," Ms. Bausch said, referring to the work's French name, "Le Sacre du Printemps." "The starting point is the music. There are so many feelings in it; it changes constantly. There is also much fear in it. I thought, how would it be to dance knowing you have to die? How would you feel, how would I feel? The Chosen One is special, but she dances knowing the end is death. The dancers listened carefully with big ears. They seemed very interested."

Alan Riding
The New York Times
15 June 1997


The women stand hunched and shuddery, near naked in flimsy beige shifts which they draw up with childish, ungainly immodesty. They are gripped by terror because they know one of them will be the sacrificial victim to mark the end of winter - the Chosen One who dances to the death. The red dress she will wear is passed among them, a rag both fearful and fascinating. They huddle together for comfort, then disintegrate into panic-stricken scurries as destiny stirs under the surface. And when a woman is chosen (Aurelie Dupont) by the male leader, the music briefly unleashes the colossal power of its drums, like the cracking of the Russian ice in spring. It signals the release of pent-up sexual longing, the men and women flying like shards into each other's arms.

What makes Bausch's Rite so extraordinary is the balance between visceral realism and intervals of vivid, orchestrated geometry: the phalanxes of unison dance, the circle of dancers revolving with stately vastness to the music slow's section, like the cycle of the seasons, like life. And then there are Bausch's emotional images: the crowd waiting before the victim like spectators at a bullfight; the girl's frozen terror as she is forced to walk by the man, who pushes her, half holding her up, her feet resisting hopelessly against the loose soil.

Nadine Meisner
The Times (London)
18 June 1997


Linked to the physical expressionism is the extraordinary and diverse musicality of Bausch's work. Her musicianship in The Rite of Spring contributes to its reputation as one of the best versions ever done. She plumbs the heft and weight of Stravinsky's great score, her dancers dropping forward like injured beasts to the thud of the bass drum. At the ritual's conclusion there is a moment of enormous impact when the sacrificial maiden plunges face forward to the floor on the music's final chord like a tree toppled in a forest.

Amanda Smith
Dance Magazine 58, no. 9 (1984): 35-37

By Mimi Tashiro ©1999, Stanford University


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