Controversion, shock and uproar: when Le Sacre du Printemps premiered in 1913 it caused extreme reactions in the audience. The choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky and the music by Stravinsky were both thought appalling. The suggestive gestures in L’après-midi d’un faune had caused similar angry reactions the year before, whereas Stravinsky’s The Firebird had been an immediate success in 1910. Introdans now brings these three works together in a programme under the title Russian Rumour. The company has chosen not to show these works in their original choreographies, but to present new interpretations. This resulted in an interesting mixture of successful and less successful dance.

L'Apres-midi d'un Faune © Hans Gerritsen
L'Apres-midi d'un Faune
© Hans Gerritsen

L’Après-midi d’un faune explores a young faun’s sexual awakening. While in the original version the work was danced by a faun and several nymphs, Thierry Malandain reworked the piece for a soloist. His jerking choreography seemed to clash with Debussy’s smoothly flowing music. Soloist Pascal Schut’s apelike moves paired with his clapping himself on the chest reminded of those of a caveman. His steps looked twisted and the choreography was above all awkward. While the original by Nijinksi might have been sensual, this version was, apart from some thrusts of the hips and touching of the body, not very spectacular. It was the incredibly muscular dancer that carried this mediocre chorography to a higher level.

Firebird © Hans Gerritsen
Firebird
© Hans Gerritsen

From Debussy’s hypnotizing impressionist tones the performance moved on to Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Choreographer Stijn Celis presented his vision on the original Russian fairytale about a prince who saves his beloved from the castle of the evil wizard Kastchei by means of the mythical firebird’s feather. The dance started out a little clumsily with Kastchei as a nasty, monstrous caricature with a creepy, bent posture. The princesses and the princes in the castle looked so scary, walking bent and covered in black cloth, that one did not know if they were good or bad. The grim atmosphere changed as soon as the firebird (Marc Beaugendre) entered the stage. Represented in the music by a cheerful flute, he impressed with refined motion. The firebird’s costume did not have wings, but they were not necessary because of his lightness and grace. Watching him dance together with prince Ivan (Jorge Pérez Martínez) was a joy. Other than this, the prince was a bit of a dimwit who ran around a lot. His pas de deux with the princess (Yulanne de Groot) was a sweet one nevertheless. So far, so good – but things got really exciting when the music grew more intense. It was Stravinsky's score that intensified the group choreography. Unfortunately the choreographer decided to have his principles dance in slow motion near the end, which made the whole grow dull. Luckily the group re-appeared at the last moment in a victorious manner: an ending that made up for the somewhat lackluster preceding scenes.

Firebird © Hans Gerritsen
Firebird
© Hans Gerritsen

It was Le Sacre du Printemps that brought in the third star in this review. Nils Christe mostly removed the original subject of sacrificing a virgin maiden, but that did not matter. This choreography showed that another story can be told to Stravinsky’s music. In this case, Christe wanted to tell that everybody can be a victim. And so all of the dancers gave their best in this performance, in which a real illusion of chaos was created when the dancers interacted with the set, consisting of half a circle of silver strips enlightened by green light. Some of the most sensational moments occurred when the men danced with each other in a raw manner. Overall, the choreography moved from quiet and demure to bombastic and delirious. This pattern, repeated time after time, became rather predictable after a while, and therefore a tad dull.

Firebird © Hans Gerritsen
Firebird
© Hans Gerritsen

Although the new interpretations of classic choreographies did make for some captivating moments, unfortunately they lacked the shock factor that could have created as much commotion or fascination as was caused by the originals, in the beginning of the twentieth century.

***11