Photo: Julien Benhamou/Opéra National de Paris

Photo: Julien Benhamou/Opéra National de Paris

Bausch: The Rite of SPring

Being an etymology nerd, I’ve learned that “rite” comes from the latin “ritus,” which can be “religious observance or ceremony.” It can also denote “habit” or “custom.” A rite is therefore not only reserved for annual, feted events (such as the annual sacrifice that drives the narrative of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring), but the everyday (or everyhour) habits we have as humans. Our morning coffee, the walk we take at lunch, the last check of our inbox before we set our phone on the nightstand and go to sleep.

What struck me about seeing the late, great German choreographer Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last fall was her twist on this force of habit. As her dancers move around viscerally, primally on a stage caked with dirt (war paint), soloists were thrust into the center until fate chose the sacrificial subject. The connection was not just between us as the audience and the Tanztheater Wuppertal as dancers, but between the dancers onstage observing those placed in the eye of the storm. We are both participants and spectators in our rituals, even those that involve just us.

Similar to “ritual,” the etymology of “theater” comes from the Greek, meaning “place for viewing.” Pina Bausch famously said that “everything belongs to everything else” in the theater. A theater, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar building in Fort Greene, Brooklyn or a dirt-caked circle contained on a stage within that building, therefore becomes a place to both see and be seen and exist in both of those realms at once. To observe action and reaction, and the interdependence of those things.


Today's Contemplation: Pina also remarked, “I'm not so interested in how they move as in what moves them.” So for today’s contemplation: Observe. See your actions, especially those done out of habit. Observe them as you’re doing them, not with judgement, but curiosity. Placing your interest in the details, can you ask yourself not how you move, but what is moving you, in this moment?