culture cheat-sheet

Stravinsky Studies

This weekend, OBT unveils The Stravinsky Project. Get a general idea of what’s in store.

By Anne Adams February 23, 2011

“Stravinsky’s music is very complex and technical,” says Anne Mueller. “This charges the choreographer with the task of almost ‘explaining the music’ through the dance.”

We’ll take her word for it. A longtime OBT principle dancer, Mueller is currently taking a turn in the choreography chair, premiering a new Stravinsky piece to go alongside OBT’s acclaimed Firebird and Rite Of Spring in The Stravinsky Project. In fact, Culturephile can’t wait ‘til Saturday to see dancers do Stravinsky—so we’re cheating. Now, obviously the attached videos are not OBT performances; that would spoil the surprise. But they are pretty cool versions of classic Stravinsky ballets. These pieces also reveal an edgy, electrified energy—a freaky feeling that ballet fans have long enjoyed about the art form, even before the prominence of Black Swan got the hoi polloi flapping.

Here’s the opening scene of The Firebird, as choreographed by Michael Fokine. Though undoubtedly different from OBT’s version, it gives an idea of the story’s spirit. In the opening scene, the Prince discovers the Firebird: a rare, supernatural creature who immediately (if temporarily) captures his heart. It’s a slightly complex situation; the Firebird naturally attracts the man, but she also mystifies him, and instinctually resists capture. The music trills with lushly-layered, dissonant tension, emphasizing her nervous flutters.

And here’s a treatment of Rite of Spring, choreographed by Maurice Béjart. This piece is typically choreographed as some sort of intense tribal ritual, with pagan overtones that either depict copulation, ritual sacrifice, or both. The dancers match the thundering urgency of the music, with intense thrusts of action.

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