The below post is the second in a series of 13 texts related to NOW-ID's inaugural Rite of loosely following the 13 episodes in Stravinsky's score. The author, Liz Ivkovich, is also a dancer in the piece. Get your tickets to the performance here.
“The groups [of dancing adolescent boys and young girls] mingle, but in their rhythms one feels the cataclysm of groups about to form. In fact they divide right and left. It is form that realizes itself, the synthesis of rhythms, and the thing formed produces a new rhythm.”
- Stravinsky describes the choreography and music for the “Augurs of Spring” in 1913, quoted by David Code
About 3:30 into the score, the Rite of Spring really begins. It’s a rolling, pounding, tympanic cataclysmic kind of beginning. Cataclysmic -- a large scale and violent upheaval in the natural world -- is the perfect word for this beginning. It’s all much more Big Bang than seven days of God-ordained earth/water separations, garden arrangements, and animal designs. It’s the Augurs of Spring.
Speaking of animals, I recently realized that everything I know about them I learned in elementary school or from Disney movies. Hyenas*, for example. Hyenas are extremely intelligent. They form female packs to protectively parent their cubs in communal dens and even come equipped with an elongated reproductive tract that allows them to flush out unwanted sperm. (!) Before learning this, I mostly knew about how they lived in the dark shadow of Pride Rock. If you know the story, you can already see that the Lion King gets almost everything wrong about hyenas, but it does make them scary. (Dumb, but scary.) What is scary enough about them to warrant becoming accomplices in the “coupe of the century” against Simba’s dad? I think it’s the sound -- that high pitched gurgle-giggle. It sets the teeth on edge.
I can hear a ghost of that sound about 31 seconds into the Augurs of Spring; the edge of a violin bow skipping across strings, a spring coming, a cataclysm in our human animal’s unnatural order. Stravinsky described it as “in their rhythms one feels the cataclysm of groups about to form. In fact, they [the boys and girls] divide right and left.”
Augurs of this spring come in all shapes and sizes. I had one last week. It was an encounter with a zealous TSA agent of the 7 a.m. cop complex variety who confiscated my 5 oz hair product** and got told something by me (mostly) under my breath in return that I shouldn’t repeat here in case my mom reads this blog, but will summarize by saying it was worse than anything a hyena ever said to Simba.
It’s not about the hair product. I’m mad a lot of the time right now. I’m mad as James from Vanderpump Rules in Season 6, Episode 7. “It’s not about the pasta!” he petulantly shouted at his friend Lala, after she brags about “stuffing her face” with all “his girl’s food without remorse.” (James’ words.) “It’s not about the hair product!” I’d like to yell. It’s about the endless #metoo stories. Our rhythm has been a pounding patriarchal beat for too long. Sometimes I think I’m tapping into a collective female outrage, a little hyena laugh that skips over top of the beat, searching for a new rhythm.
As we near the morning after the #metoo moment, groups have “divided right and left” like Stravinsky described, but I don’t think we’ve yet found how “the thing formed creates a new rhythm”. Most of us who identify as women are probably still working among, partnered with, or related to men. Where do we go from here?
**I know. My fault completely for not following the 3.4 oz carry-on rule. Totally banal example. And I also know about the actual, really messed up things that people are facing with travel in this country. It’s not about the hair product, as you’ll see if you keep reading.