The Rite of Spring – available to watch online this month
12 Jul 2021
We’re delighted thatThe Rite of Spring, our co-production with Opera North which debuted in February 2019, will be available to watch for free on the streaming platform OperaVision from 23 July 2021.
The Rite of Spring was choreographed by Haitian born choreographer Jeanguy Saintus. His 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 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 production was a success with audiences and critic alike, with The Times describing it as a “a gripping, at times beautiful spectacle”.
Saintus says: “I am moved when I think about the welcoming challenges I experienced rewriting this well-known dance work. At the time I didn’t know the company well, but I quickly discovered I was embarking on that adventure with beautiful dancers and a wonderful creative team.
I am grateful to Sharon Watson, then Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre for allowing me to tell my alternative vision of the Rite through the lens of Haiti’s empowering Vodou culture, my culture. Also a treat was the collaboration with Opera North and its Music Director Garry Walker, who earned my trust starting with the first rehearsal.
I am thrilled that the world can now experience our amazing endeavour from the comfort of their homes. Reaching a larger audience is the goal of every choreographer, artist, and the dancers themselves; therefore, this is a wish realised for me.
“On a personal note, the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the worst periods I’ve experienced. I am still living through it, along with my dancers and dance artists all over the world. On a more positive note, I am working on a new piece, ‘Invocation’, for my company Ayikodans in Haiti, and another production to be presented in Athens in September 2021.”
The Rite of Spring will be available to watch for free from 6pm on Friday 23 July 2021 on operavision.eu. It will be available to watch until on Sunday 23 January 2022.
This autumn, we embark on our second collaboration with Opera North, presenting a unique double bill of West Side Story Symphonic Dances and Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein. You can find out more about this production here.