As the lights dimmed in Memorial Hall, a line of plain clothes performers marched forth to the edge of the stage.
“A Rite,” a collaborative venture between theater legend Anne Bogart and choreographer Bill T. Jones, held its world premiere Saturday, after weather halted the Friday showing.
Performance: Saturday, Jan. 26
Performers who hailed from different companies excelled in both the realms of dance and theater, driving home a narrative that set forth 100 years of narrative surrounding Igor Stravinsky’s historic score of “The Rite of Spring.”
The characterization of the piece was one of the biggest successes of the night.
One of the central characters, played by Ellen Lauren, was based on Severine Neff, a UNC music professor who served as a historical guide for Bogart and Jones.
Another character, a World War I soldier, created the narrative the holds the work together.
The work traces his story of coming home from war and the struggles he faces, culminating in one heart-wrenching and poignant final scene, foreshadowed by his constant muttering of “rat-a-tat-tat” — the sound of a machine gun — throughout the show.
Though this narrative is evocative of the sacrifice “The Rite of Spring” is famous for, the sacrifice of a virginal girl, the theme takes on new meaning and is quickly followed by a rebirth, symbolic of the deconstruction and reconstruction of the original work.
The cast of performers used pauses as freeze frames — sometimes highlighted by spotlights — commenting on the themes of time and metaphysics, reflected also in spoken excerpts from theorist Brian Greene.
Various performers would throw stools to each other and pause during the action, only to resume their action a moment later.
Stools made up a large portion of the choreography, being both tossed about the stage as well as strategically placed to provide alternate planes for one character to glide across the stage — as well as to perform a gravity-defying sideways run.
The ensemble alternated between moving as one amoebous structure and breaking apart, much like Stravinsky’s score, which was taken apart and rearranged in “A Rite.”
The one pitfall for the production came in the second half, where renditions from various genres — including jazz, big band and swing — propel “The Rite of Spring” through the years.
As tempos shifted, the performers spun a piano around the stage, revealing a jazz-like portrait on the back of the piano, taking this high-concept piece and providing the audience an almost elementary explanation.
The finale of the show provides commentary on the hot-button issue of gun control and mental illness, but does not pigeonhole itself.
The production provides a current commentary on Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and introduces a slew of issues, allowing each audience member to find their own meaning.
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