Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Rite of Spring Workshop

Workshop: The Rite of Spring, English National Ballet, London Coliseum – reviewed on 24th March

On the London Coliseum stage, ten participants were guided through a workshop inspired by Kenneth MacMillan’s The Rite of Spring. English National Ballet learning officer, Danielle Jones, incorporated elements of the tribal choreography into the typical exercises of a ballet technique class. To gorgeous piano music from Rite’s score, movements included stomach contractions, splayed fingers and turned-in feet alongside pliés, sautés and grands battements.

Danielle encouraged participants to feel their bodies being pulled simultaneously in different directions and to perform jumps with the heavy, pounding-into-the-floor feeling of the choreography. “The Rite of Spring is not pretty in any way – it’s angry and aggressive.” Ballet-trained participants struggled to master the tricky style but were kept thoroughly amused throughout class as they attempted to transform themselves into a sacrificial tribe.

ENB are performing the 1962 ballet as part of their Beyond Ballets Russes season. To bring it up to date, the piece has been redesigned with black and red bodysuits replacing the original autumnal colours and giving the choreography a darker and more menacing feel. Workshop participants had the chance to look at these costumes alongside outfits for other ballets in the programme including Firebird and Suite en Blanc. The morning’s activities were completed with a chance to watch company dancers in class as they prepared for the day’s performances.

MacMillan’s The Rite of Spring is a fabulous ballet that challenges the classical lexicon with its hostility and drama. It is a hugely powerful work and I wish more people had been able to come and explore its choreography under the expert guidance of English National Ballet’s learning department.

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