'Rite of Spring' brings sensual, seductive and steamy ballet to Nashville

Nashville Ballet’s Rite of Spring, will bring to the stage paganism and its rituals from birth to death, with plenty of sex and violence in between. It told the story of a young warrior’s birth and coming of age and of a young woman who is sacrificed to make peace with the God of Spring.

Rite of Spring is part of the Winter Series performances that will be held February 8-10 and 14-16.

The evening will begin with a Nashville Ballet premiere of Twyla Tharp’s Octet. Tharp, well known for her varied and stylish choreography, has numerous movie credits including Amadeus, White Nights and Hair. This sleek and contemporary ballet is set to music by Edgar Meyer. Along with a company premiere of James Canfield’s Trois Gnossiennes, Paul Vasterling has created a new ballet Orpheus - which is based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

The evening concludes with Aiello’s sensual interpretation of Rite of Spring. Based on the original ballet choreographed in 1913, the primal theme and movement caused riots in the streets of France when it first premiered.

Performance times are 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evening, with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on February 10, and a special Valentine’s performance at 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 14.

In Part I of Rite of Spring  the curtain rises to reveal young men and women in separate groups. Their surroundings are primitive and dominated by the dark forces of nature. At first the dances are light hearted but they slowly change to have more aggressive and savage movements. The young men take possession of the women and carry them offstage. A fight ensues until a wise old man makes peace. There is a stunned silence, then the men throw themselves on the ground in worship, rise again, and start an even more frenzied dance.

In Part II, The sacrifice, the young women are standing on the stage near a fire, one of them will be chosen as a sacrifice to the earth. The chosen one stands alone and still in the middle of the stage after a mystic dance, and the young members of the tribe gather around her and dance in a "crescendo or brutal excitement." Finally the chosen one joins them and the dancing grows more and more violent until it climaxes and the chosen maiden falls exhausted and dies. The men then carry her over to the sacred stone and fall prostrate. The rite is over.

Rite of Spring not only tells a story but has had many stories told about it and about its scandalous premiere in 1913. In retrospect, it has been seen as foreshadowing the chaos of World War I and the radical social changes that took place after that conflict; initially, it just shook everyone up, whether they loved it or thought it was an abomination. Vaslav Nijinsky's original choreography, with its in-turned legs and simple, blocky movement, was everything that most people thought ballet was not, causing as much of a scandal as the music itself. Perhaps because of this volatile beginning, the score has drawn many choreographers to it, creating everything from meticulous enactments of the virgin sacrifice in the original to a tongue-in-cheek variation of a B-rated gangster film.

“Salvatore Aiello’s Rite of Spring is a phenomenal work that challenges everyone, including the audience. His use of physicality and emotion keeps the audience members on the edge of their seats," explained Nashville Ballet Master Tim Yeager. "Rite is artistic, athletic and sensual, and I consider it one of the most thought-provoking and jaw-dropping ballets ever. It was a great honor for me to have been a part of the original cast and to have danced it so many times. It is an even bigger honor to be able to teach Aiello’s work to other dancers and especially thrills me to see this piece done again with the powerful dancers of Nashville Ballet”.

All performances will be held in the Polk Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Tickets range in price from $19 to $59. Student Rush tickets are also available for $10 one hour before each performance with student ID. All tickets will be subject to an additional $2.50 TPAC facility fee. Tickets are available through the TPAC box office downtown and the TPAC box office at Davis Kidd Booksellers, through Ticketmaster or by calling 615-255-ARTS. Nashville Ballet is funded in part from grants made available through the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Ingram Charitable Trust Foundation.

 For more information visit the Nashville Ballet Web site.


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