The Rite of Spring/common ground[s]
Her Majesty’s Theatre, 58 Grote Street, Tarntanya (Adelaide)
Friday 4th of March, 8.30 PM
Photos by Andrew Beveridge

It caused a riot. Some called Stravinsky a madman. What is considered the most controversial orchestral work and ballet in history was brought back to life this week, with Pina Bausch’s 1975 iteration.

Solomon Bausch continued the legacy of his mother through the Pina Bausch Foundation, École des Sables and Sadler’s Wells to bring us The Rite of Spring, the story of a pagan sacrifice to the God of Spring.

The uncomfortable tonality from the visionary Russian composer was thrown onto the stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre, with wheelie-bins full of dirt and a cast of almost 40 dancers from 14 countries across the African continent.

Presented by the Adelaide Festival, the original piece was performed over 100 years ago to a protesting crowd and I can understand why.

Bausch’s works have always demanded intense listening and viewing energy from the audience and this was no exception. The movement placed me in a field, in the middle of a sacrificial trance, surrounded by the glittering majesty of a theatre built on colonised lands. Nothing about the experience was comfortable.

It took me back to my time living in Nigeria, spending months in desolate communities with no access to clean water, living along gas pipelines that were tapped into for cooking fires and warmth. The local pastor gathered us on Sundays in front of his (literal) throne as we wept and gnashed to God. We were desperate to offer our lives as a sacrifice, gleaming in the reflection of a gold encrusted cross proudly displayed on his breastplate. After this sacred ritual, I would return to my mosquito net and hold HIV positive 3-month-old’s, trying to ease their discomfort as they slipped away.

The final five minutes of thirteen musical parts culminates in an erratic and fearful solo by The Chosen One, dressed in red, performing her Sacrificial Dance. Her collapse comes as a shock and abrupt ending to the chaotic thrashing. Like my experience in Nigeria, everything about this performance is dissonant: the orchestral brutality; the sweat soaked and dirt mired silk slips; the jagged choreography landing on soft earth.

The Rite of Spring is resolute in its refusal to sit comfortably within us. It will never resolve itself in my soul or on the stage.

After a few deep breaths I recall the first companion piece to this staggering work and I am brought back to a serene river, paddling along the matriarchal structures that wind around common ground[s]. Performed as a new work by Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo, an iconic dancer of Bausch’s company, the women, both in their 70’s express their life’s work through the many roles we play as grandmothers, mothers, daughters, carers, cleaners, nurturers and friends.

– Chloe Tanner

The Rite of Spring / common ground[s] at Her Majesty’s Theatre until Sunday, March 6.

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