Kill everyone who brings us discord; it is the only way to have quiet. A Rite (actually a meta-cognitive lesson) is about living a daily sacrificial rite in our 21st century—in our schools, in our public spaces, in our streets, in “someone else’s" ' war. A Rite (2013), is a dance-theatre-text-music, evening-length work that frames the themes of ritual, riot, and violence via a powerful amalgamation of artistic forces by Anne Bogart (SITI Theatre Company) and Bill T. Jones & Janet Wong (Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company). The production consequently engages viewers to rethink the themes of Stravinsky/Nijinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913) in reference to our time. The evening was conceived with skill, heart, and intelligence, and it was unanimously appreciated.

The opening scene warns anyone familiar with The Rite of Spring that A Rite is not simply another theatrical creation using Stravinsky’s iconic music, but rather a work that demystifies the pagan ritual by opening with the Sacrificial Dance being performed by the entire company en masse in 21st century pedestrian clothing. A Rite deconstructs how little humanity has evolved since 1913. A dance about sacrifice in 1913 caused a riot then, and yet, acts of violence today cause little stir, due to numbness.

© Paul B Goode
© Paul B Goode
To understand how A Rite differs from The Rite of Spring, we must examine the addition of text. The amalgamation of text, acting, music, dance, set, props, lights, and sound is necessary to unveil the deeper messages of the original Lithuanian pagan-themed work and provides us with a meta-cognitive experience of ourselves through a musicologist’s lecture. The collaboration to create this lecture seems to have emerged through expert examination of music structures, movement styles, and thematic content, not to emulate what has come before, but to heighten a message. For a hundred years we have quite possibly seen the pagan ritual sacrifice of the maiden as the “other.” A Rite deconstructs that rite using texts by Green, Herzon, Lehrer, Neff, Tanikwawa, Watanabe, and WWI veterans simultaneously eviscerating the concept that violence only happens to others. Dancers and actors dance, speak, and sing as an orchestra together, delivering the message, mood, and sounds of the score - maintaining our rapt attention.

Homage is paid to Stravinsky and Nijinsky as harbingers of an era of violence through expression of polytonal chords, atonal sounds, pulsing beats, driving rhythms, and asynchronous, emotionally charged movements that cycle and circle. Circling, in the music and in spatial pathways, reminds us how easily we can get muddled and not be able to see when the object of our attention repeats and slips away. A Rite suggests that the rite of 1913 was not a nostalgic memory of a quaint Lithuanian pagan culture adorned with indigenous costumes, bear outfits, and long braids depicting a chosen “other.” No, Stravinsky and Nijinsky sent a warning to modern man that we live by the sacrifice of our tender youth to gain some semblance of control. In this 2013 remake of the original rite, we experience a warning, a call for humans to waken from complacency. As with any stimulus, the ear, the mind, and the soul become conditioned and the response muted, over time. A Rite warns us to question whether disorder and order differ from ritual and riot. We are trudging along, carrying the weight of injured humanities, wondering how to measure the difference between one and the other.

The whimsical narrator, a quirky, brilliant musicologist, played by Ellen Lauren, lectures about key moments in the music and brings humor to the concept of careful listening. She takes the audience on a tour of The Rite of Spring, both a historical speculation of how one might have heard the music in 1913 and a deconstruction of the essential and tangential themes found in the 1913 performance.

© Paul B Goode
© Paul B Goode
While every bit of non-narrative text, movement, and sound performed by the fifteen-strong company is essential to A Rite, it is the quizzical musicologist that weaves comedy into horrors. The protagonist, a soldier, home from war, felicitously played by Will Bond, never questions his will and belief in soldiering on. His post-traumatic stress disorders continue to batter the community throughout the evening, his arms and voice percussively mimicking how he deals with stress, with machine guns firing.

The engaging dancing, actiand music and the production's set, props, lighting, costumes, and direction were synthesized to produce a work of thoughtful mastery and insight. Dancers include Antonio Brown, Rena Butler, Cain Coleman, Talli Jackson, Shayla-vie Jenkins, I-Ling Liu, Erick Montes Chavero, Jennifer Nugent, Joseph Poulson, and Jenna Riegel. Actors not already mentioned include Akiko Aizawa, Leon Ingulsrud, and Stephen Duff Webber. Designers include Stacey Boggs, Sam Crawford, James Schuette, and Robert Wierzel.