The world premiere of a new interpretation of The Rite of Spring by noted Dutch choreographer Joost Vrouenraets highlights the Spring Dance Concert at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, April 12-14, 2013. The Meadows Dance Ensemble will showcase the work, created in honor of The Rite’s 100th anniversary, as well as Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie, a pas de deux by Visiting Artist-in-Residence Adam Hougland, and the premiere of In the City, an exciting new work by faculty member and noted jazz dance artist Danny Buraczeski.
The concert opens with George Balanchine’s Valse Fantaisie (or “fantasy waltz”), a short, classical ballet piece set to the music of Mikhail Glinka, Russia’s first national composer. The work for one male and five female dancers expresses a sense of joy and has been called “a small gem” by The New York Times.
The program continues with a duet by Visiting Artist-in-Residence Adam Hougland from his work Watershed, set to the music of Friandises by composer Christopher Rouse. Watershed received its world premiere in 2006 as part of The Juilliard School’s centennial celebration and was televised on the PBS production Live from Lincoln Center. Hougland, a Dallas native, is principal choreographer for the Louisville Ballet and resident choreographer for the Cincinnati Ballet. He has won both the Princess Grace Award and the Choo-San Goh Award for choreography and was named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch in 2011.”
Rounding out the first half of the concert is the premiere of Danny Buraczeski’s In the City, based on “Three Dance Episodes” from the popular Leonard Bernstein musical On the Town. Inspired by the urban rhythms and textures of Bernstein’s remarkable music, the new work features 15 dancers celebrating youth, optimism and the vibrant new energy that the Dallas Arts District has brought to the city. Buraczeski, a nationally known jazz choreographer, has received commissions from such organizations as the Walker Art Center, the Library of Congress, and the American Dance Festival. He also has received multiple fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, for whom he is now a regular panelist/consultant.
The second half of the program is devoted to The Rite of Spring, which premiered in 1913 in Paris to greater storms of controversy than any other ballet in history. It was the most significant declaration of Modernism up to that time, with a score by Igor Stravinsky that is still considered revolutionary and choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky that was an anthology of creative innovation in dance. The original ballet evoked a primitive Slavonic ritual glorifying the rites of spring, concluding with a human sacrifice. Award-winning Dutch choreographer Joost Vroenraets has created a new version of The Rite that he says is more of a mirror for the 21st century. “Our rituals today are based more on social networks and less on religion and spirituality,” he says. “They focus more on manipulating people. I wanted to make a piece based on the strength or beauty of the group but also the tragedy of it – the quick, strong connections that people can make today don’t always lead to positive ends.” In Vrouenraets’ new work, a 21st-century tribe of young virgins are moved by their ambitious desire to manipulate, control and reproduce. They secretly and ritually create a perfect man, and then choose one woman among them to mate with this creation and to give birth to a new kind of human. Vrouenraets says the SMU dancers have been the most critical element in this Rite’s creation and performance. He notes the young artists are “in the spring of their lives,” and says their fearless energy captures the spirit he is seeking to represent in The Rite: that of a new generation grappling with the beautifully seductive yet dangerous violence – economic, cultural and socio-political – that is the hallmark of the 21st-century society they will inherit.
Vrouenraets is the co-founder of Gotra Ballet in Switzerland. Prior to that he studied dance at the Rudra Béjart studio/school in Switzerland and danced for Béjart’s Company M and Ballet Lausanne. He received the Inspiration Prize 2012 from the Prince Bernhard Culture Fund, the cultural fund of the royal house of the Netherlands. In 2008, he won the Nederlandse Dansdagen, a prize that recognizes the talents of young choreographers. He has choreographed numerous works for Gotra and for other companies, created four independent films (two of which are being shown worldwide) and received critical acclaim for performances throughout Europe and the U.S. He also regularly serves as a guest artist at professional dance schools in America and abroad. The Rite of Spring is his second commission for the Division of Dance at SMU.
The Spring Dance Concert takes place in the Bob Hope Theatre in the Owen Arts Center, 6101 Bishop Blvd. on the SMU campus. Performance times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $13 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students, SMU faculty and staff. Free parking is available at Hillcrest and Binkley or in the garage under the Meadows Museum. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 214-768-2787.
NOTE: The dance program will be offered again at the Winspear Opera House on May 1 at 8 p.m. for “Meadows at the Winspear,” the annual fundraising event for the Meadows School of the Arts, with live accompaniment from the acclaimed Meadows Symphony Orchestra. Proceeds from that event provide scholarships for the Meadows Scholars program, aimed at recruiting the brightest and most talented students to SMU and Dallas. “Meadows at the Winspear” tickets are available from the AT&T Performing Arts Center box office at 214-880-0202.