The below post is the sixth in a series of 13 texts related to NOW-ID's inaugural Rite of Spring, loosely following the 13 episodes in Stravinsky's score. Dance of the Earth is by Kate Mattingly, Assistant Professor at the University of Utah. Get your tickets to the performance here.
I recently watched a documentary called Visual Acoustics that described how a photographer, Julius Shulman, documented architectural designs in Los Angeles.
Unexpectedly, I found many connections between the film’s ideas and my theories about dance criticism: many people will never visit the homes that Shulman photographed, but his images circulate these architectural designs to millions of people.
Similarly, many people have never seen the performances that shape histories of dance, like Nijinsky’s 1913 version of the Rite of Spring. Instead, critics’ writing circulates as representations of performances, often as stand-ins for events that are multi-modal and trigger multiple interpretations.
In other words, just like many people only know a building through the photographer’s carefully framed image, dance history has depended on critics’ writing as a kind of archival or circulating material for an art form that is embodied and sensorial. As I thought about this, I wondered if some productions may be better served by having an image instead of words circulate as its representation. Applying this idea to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring I collected 11 images of different productions: from Stravinsky’s appearance in Disney’s Fantasia (1940) to Etienne Bechard’s 2018 version of Rite for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Do you see through-lines or themes running through these very different creations? Do you think certain images convey a sense of the productions’ dynamics more effectively than a video recording or a critic’s words?