National broadcast Dec 28, 2012 at 9pmET, PBS American Masters" —
For anyone interested in contemporary dance and the vagaries of having an arts organization since the Seventies, Bob Hercules’ doc is a must see" — Point of View Magazine Toronto
Whether a dance fan or not, this film will definitely convince you to part with your hard earned money for a chance to watch the dancers in performance" — CinemaEye Toronto
Now available on iTunes and Amazon" —
Sheds perspective on today’s dance world through the lens of Joffrey’s pioneering vision. A film not to be missed" — Seattle Dances
“Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance” is an exhilarating piece of dance history" — Seattle Times
It’s a story about American ballet, but also a story about daring people who gleefully threw themselves into the whirlwinds of controversy." — The Stranger (Seattle)
Scintillating with edgy, raw, passionate energy…The film reveals a legacy of gutsy change and innovation." — NOVU Newsweekly Indianapolis
A story that needs to be told" — Slant Magazine
An important piece of not only the company’s history, but also of dance history…the heritage of dance deserves it." — New York Times
A bountiful feast for true dance lovers, as well as a thrillingly human story of artistic endeavor for everyone to savor." — David Noh,Film Journal International
A deeply archived and circumspect history of the Joffrey dance company…a perfect white swan …(with) marvelous footage of the early ballets" — Village Voice
A long-overdue tribute to Robert Joffrey and his vibrant company, the Joffrey Ballet." — The New Yorker
All the angst and elation is brilliantly captured in the film through the people who were there at the time." — Berkshire on Stage
Entertaining and enlightening and sure to please lovers of dance" — Detroit News
Ballet fans will want to get their hands on a copy of Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, a thrilling new documentary." — Huffington Post
A compelling tale well told, blessed with emotionally generous characters and infused with joy, suspense, tragedy and redemption." — Speaking of Dance
The story of the Joffrey Ballet – a thrilling, touching and turbulent account – must be seen." — Stage and Cinema
For dance fans, this is a movie well-worth watching" — Examiner.com
A marvelous celebration of dance" — GoPride.com
Hosannas and hallelujahs for the new documentary on the Joffrey Ballet." — Dance Magazine
May 29, 2013 will mark the 100th anniversary of the premiere of perhaps the most scandalous dance work of the twentieth century, Ballets Russes’ Le Sacre du Printemps. Over the next few posts, we will take a look at this piece and why it is significant that the Joffrey Ballet worked to reconstruct it for modern audiences.
As many of you know, Sergei Diaghilev, a Russian immigrant, is known as the impressario of ballet for the early 20th century. His Paris based Ballets Russes set the standard of what a modern ballet company would look like, blending the classical traditions of European ballet training with uniquely modern costume design, themes and music and extensively touring his company around the world. The Ballets Russes was strongly influential to American companies like American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet (Balanchine was once the ballet master of the Ballets Russes) and the Joffrey Ballet.
Diaghilev’s early collaborations with music composer Igor Stravinsky gave the world 3 renowned ballets. Stravinsky’s work, Fireworks, brought him to the attention of Diaghilev who commissioned a ballet with this music based on the Firebird legend (The Firebird or L’Oiseau de Feu with choreography by Mikhail Fokine premiered in 1910). It was a huge success, so two more ballets were commissioned, resulting in Petrouchka (also choreographed by Fokine and premiered in 1911) and Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky). These 3 pieces sealed Stravinsky’s reputation as the first modernist composer of the new century.
Until this time, balletomanes were primarily fed a diet of staid classical pieces from the traditions of ballet, rooted in the court dances of Louis XIV’s reign and Italian pantomime. Choreographers like Petipa, Bournonville, Cecchetti and Saint Leon were responsible for many of the works of the 19th century and several ballets, such as La Sylphide which was also on the same performance program of the Ballets Russes the night Sacre premiered, still survive today. But these pieces were largely regarded as “pretty” dancing and did not challenge the audience with drama and themes of savagery and carnal lust like Sacre.
The piece is actually a collaboration of 3 artists; Diaghilev’s prime choreographer Nijinsky, Stravinsky and Nicholas Roerich who was a Russian scenic designer strongly influenced by ancient cultures and their practices. The ballet was meant to express the primitive rites of ancient man as he welcomed spring by making a sacrifice to the Sun God and it was a story unlike any ballet before it provoking controversy that would continue for many years.
There is also some discrepancy over who actually first came up with the idea for the ballet, Stravinsky or Roerich? Some contend that Stravinsky came up with the idea for the music first and consulted with Roerich because of his knowledge of pagan rituals. In his later life, Stravinsky also claimed to have contributed to the choreography because at the time, Nijinsky was so inexperienced as a choreographer, he could not easily work with the difficult musical composition. Indeed, both the music and the original choreography were so complex that later Joffrey dancers cite this as the most challenging part of learning and rehearsing the piece.
That night in May 1913 was remembered by those who attended as a raucous evening not soon forgotten. “The theater seemed to be shaken by an earthquake. It shuddered. People shouted insults, howled and whistled, drowning out the music. There was slapping and even punching…the ballet was astoundingly beautiful.” Stunned by the complicated and unusual music and defiantly non classical dancing, the audience made up of Paris’ elite class rebelled either from emotional excitement or outrage at the lack of convention. The following video gives a good reenactment of the scene as imagined by the BBC in their made for TV film Riot at the Rite
There is an account by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer about the making of this TV movie and their roles in it here.
Le Sacre du Printemps would see 5 subsequent performances at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees which were all relatively peaceful and then several performances in London’s Theatre Royal. Ultimately, Nijinsky’s choreography was scrapped in favor of a 1920 reconstituted version choreographed by Leonide Massine. It would not be until 1987 that the world would see a reconstruction of Nijinsky’s original work, this time in Los Angeles.
For more imagery, see our Pinterest board devoted to Le Sacre du Printemps
← The ballets of John Cranko Reconstructing the Rite →