Today is the last day to catch Yuri Possokhov’s new Rite of Spring at San Francisco Ballet. I am sad to see it go away as it was such a great ballet to rehearse and especially perform! As you can see from the photos, I danced a very unusual role, with an even more unusual costume. Designed ingeniously by Sandra Woodall, Garen Scribner and I become Siamese twin elders, presiding over the pagan society in which Yuri’s primal ballet exists. We become one entity, slinking in sync across the stage, partnering each other, stretching the fabric of the skirt between us, and using the recoil of the elastic to spin in and back towards each other. We brandish large sticks and ultimately choose the sacrificial victim. All while staying with the expansive Stravinsky score. I can easily say this is one of the most original and challenging roles (and costume) I have ever danced (or worn). And yes, it is a lot of fun!
People have asked me “what does it mean”, and my first answer is always to say, “what did you get from it?” because there are no wrong answers. I am happy to explain my take on it, but I always want to hear an audience member’s reaction first. Many times in human nature, we revere what we don’t understand. This is how I see the elders’ relationship with the pagan community. Garen and I are different and deformed and therefore treated with reverence and respect. When we mark Jennifer Stahl or Dores Andre as “The Chosen One,” everyone commits to the gruesome act without question.
Even her lover turns against her, which in my opinion is the true tragedy of the story. It brings up questions for me in regards to societal pressure, choosing to act on your own individual thoughts, or rather resorting to social norms. Maybe her lover has pangs of regret as he ties her up to send her to her demise, or maybe he does not. How would each of us act or feel in that situation? We make decisions on how to react to arguably less dramatic, but none less poignant situations in our society every day. What does it mean to be “civilized?”
The Rite of Spring can be experienced on so many levels, the music, Yuri’s primal (but somehow still classical!) choreography, the tour de force performances by Jennifer Stahl and Dores Andre and the whole cast, the costumes, the sets (by former SFB principal Benjamin Pierce), and the concepts behind what drives this community to extreme actions.
I hope you had a chance to see it, if not, I can only assume that we will bring it back again next year to afford everyone a second chance.