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Review: ‘The Rite of Spring’s’ chaotic nature spins beauty into performance

Controlled chaos.

This weekend, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and BalletMet collaborated for the first time to perform “The Rite of Spring,” written by Igor Stravinsky. The ballet, which emulates pagan rituals, was first performed 100 years ago in Paris, and apparently the people of 1913 Paris couldn’t quite handle what Stravinsky dished out.

They called it riot inducing. They called it the scandal of a century. It was the performance that echoed around the world.

And I could see why.

But now, 100 years later, the aspects that caused chaos were what made the performance so great.

The performance was broken into three parts, and “The Rite of Spring,” which offered a modern twist on the welcoming of spring through sacrificing a victim, didn’t come until after intermission.

The first part, “Afternoon of a Faun,” with choreography by Amedeo Amodio and music by Claude Debussy, featured only two dancers – a man and a woman – dressed in nude, skin-tight outfits that made them appear naked. From the symphony, conducted by Jean-Marie Zeitouni, the flutes were featured during this ethereal yet primitive first segment.

The woman began to dance, and I’ve never seen anyone as graceful. Her movements were so flawless she looked fluid, as if someone else were controlling her. When the man danced, he was a little more aggressive and jerky, but you could tell he was accurately portraying his part.

When they danced together things turned sensual, and they seemed to be portraying having sex on stage. But with their graceful, perfect movements, they made the often chaotic action seem controlled and beautiful.

“Rapsodie Espagnole,” with choreography by Jimmy Orrante and music by Maurice Ravel, was my favorite part. The program said it was inspired by ballets such as “Carmen,” and featured strong flamenco influences, from the music – which added a greater emphasis on the strings than the first segment – to the costumes, to the movements.

Three strikingly tall and beautiful dancers started the segment, but sometimes it was hard to tell if they were supposed to be in sync or not. They had partners come in and out, and the explosions of sound that emulated fiestas and bullfights were an interesting contrast to the simple and quiet “Afternoon of a Faun.”

At one point it was just a man and woman on stage. That was the most aesthetically pleasing part of the segment, possibly because of the simplicity that was created.

After a 20 minute intermission, during which Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream offered it’s new flavor, Absinthe and Merengues (which was created for and inspired by the show), “The Rite of Spring” began. The lighting was different and it set a different tone than the first two parts.

The ritualistic aspect certainly came through in the dancing and the music, but there was a modern spin. About 20 people came on and off the stage, sometimes all at once. They were wearing crazy outfits, I assume to give it the modern spin. Some wore bell-bottomed ’70s pants, others skirts and mid-drift shirts. One man wore a kilt and no shirt.

The outfits and abundance of people on the stage made it seem really chaotic, but their synchronicity gave the performance a connectedness that I think was really appreciated. The way they danced together and stayed connected controlled their chaos, and really helped bring the whole show together.

“The Rite of Spring” will show Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Ohio Theatre. Tickets range from $25 to $65 and can be purchased through Ticketmaster.


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