Bowen McCauley Braves “Rite of Spring” at the Kennedy Center
March 5, 2012 Leave a comment
The audience gasps as the curtain reveals a cosmic scene – a blood-red scrim protruded by a gargantuan tinfoil moon structure and Bowen McCauley Dance’s eight member company strewn in makeshift positions across the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater stage. “Le Sacre du Printemps”(or “Rite of Spring”) is Lucy’s variation on the original Nijinsky work. The 33 minute score of asymmetrical tribal rhythms is a feat to attempt, and Lucy bravely gave the work a contemporary makeover, adding a new level of humanity to the portrayal of the virgin sacrifice who dances herself to death.
Debuting at the John F. Kennedy Center March 1st and 2nd, 2012, “Le Sacre du Printemps” closed BMD’s four piece concert. Composed by Igor Stavinsky, Vaslav Nijinsky’s original work was set on Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. It debuted in Paris in 1913 to an outraged audience. Compared to the Romantic ballets of the time, the low contracted, turned-in and grotesque shapes riddled with violent bouncing and harsh rhythms were no doubt shocking.
Now almost in its centennial year, “Rite of Spring” is credited with being “the first modern dance,” the work that set into motion a new generation of modern visionaries. Lucy has counted herself amongst those inspired for more than half her life. “I have loved this music since I first heard the orchestral version at Interlochen when I was 14,” she said.
Costumed in torn flesh-colored bike-tards ripping at the seams and muscle-like roping holding on stripes of charcoal fabric (design: Chesley Schuller and Tony Cisek), “Le Sacre du Printemps” was set to Stravinsky’s four-hand piano score (musicians: Fabio and Giselle Witkowksi). The melodic nature of the piano seemed to alleviate the severity of the monotonous chord pounding.
The tribe of dancers paints an apocalyptic scene, meshing classic stag leaps and hieroglyphic images joined with Lucy’s signature fluidity. Men and women seem to share power over each other, choosing their mates while also stalking the chosen sacrifice. When the choice is made, dancer Alicia Curtis draws out the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and eventually acceptance, shown by a resigned intensity in her gaze. In a theatrical display that would’ve made Gelsey Kirkland proud, Alicia lets loose her hair and pleas to her kinsmen for mercy. Finally succumbing to her isolation and the emotional turmoil of this Vagner-like operatic drama, Alicia sprints to the edge of the orchestra pit cliff, just as the tribe encapsulates her. Blackout.
In “Beethoven Bits,” choreography by the late Eric Hampton, and “Resuitened,” smooth technique is interjected with pops of color – humorous moments of unexpected gesture implanted in such an unconventional way that the audience has to chuckle. The dancers are fingers on the keyboard, the theatrical depiction of each classical note.
“Ozone” was a rich collaborative project. With music by Larry Alan Smith, BMD’s music director, and inspired by Rita Dove’s poetry, “Ozone” blended the organic artistry of a cello, a flute, a soprano voice and graceful movement, with moments of discomfort – a breathy note of the flute, a piercing high of the soprano or a note held to the point of dying out on the cello. These moments were gradually extended much like expansion of atmospheric holes.
Lucy was awarded The Pola Nirenska Award, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society for her achievements in dance in the DC Metro community. “[Lucy’s] company serves as a challenge for audiences and a frame for Washington talent,” said WPAS representative George Jackson.