Le Sacre Du Printemps, choreographed by Baslav Nijinsky in 1913 is a masterpiece in ballet history for its original and groundbreaking features. The sense of eccentricity and disharmony, promoted by the music composed by Igor Stravinsky, forces audiences to remain immersed throughout the show. No wonder this piece had so many challenges from choreographers from next generations who tried to make their own versio. Unconventional, almost shocking topic that brings out extreme ends of human emotions, Igor Stravinsky’s music that makes audiences feel highly uncomfortable and impatient and the choreography of Nijinsky that completely eradicated “traditional beauty of ballet” not only makes the piece an unprecedented deviation from conventional line but also infuses ingenious grace and beauty of eeriness to audiences. Watching “Le Sacre Du Printemps,” one may feel unfamiliar or even terrified due to such unconventional stage and music. One may be overwhelmed by it while another may feel invaded. Others may find it threatening because it is so disruptive of what we generally perceive as beautiful or peaceful. Paris audiences in 1913 explicitly expressed contempt and horror at its premier night. However, because “Le Sacre Du Printemps” created a new form of beauty from the sense of shock and it inspired numerous follow up artists, it is exceptional.
Two of the most notable challengers are Pina Bausch and Angelin Prelijocaj who altered the famous “Sacrificial Dance,” the climax of the performance when a girl, chosen to be sacrificed for god, dances in the face of imminent death. In the original version, the dancer jumps up and down at one spot with strangely twisted arms and legs and unchanging facial expression that is rigid and frightened. Nijinsky focuses on the primitive sensation that Slavic ritual gives rather than revealing the victim’s emotions.
However, Bausch and Prelijocaj created the most expressive Sacrificial Dance, from the point of “the victim.” The girl in Bausch’s version wears red dress and runs, rolls, falls, and twists her whole body out of exhaustion and resistance against her fate. The scene of male dancers calling terrified female dancers one by one to select who will be sacrificed, shouts out the violence of hierarchy between sexes. What peaks the “violence theme” is other women who were terrified alike a few seconds before soon avoid the chosen girl. Prelijocaj describes the violence on female sex even more vividly. Male dancers are also violent actors who take superior position in the hierarchical relationship. Female dancers try to evade from their position by using their “sexuality” but ultimately fail. They are raped and one of them is hunted and put on an altar. A girl put on the alter tries to escape her spot so desperately that audiences might feel guilty of witnessing such violent scene. Male dancers surrounding her ultimately take every clothing off her including underwear. Naked girl with a strong will to survive, being thrown to the death while rest of the crew and audiences staring is the most violent scene in the ballet history. Prelijocaj reminds us of many topics in feminist history such as prostitution and contemporary gender roles.