Phoenix Dance Theatre's The Rite Of Spring and the Sacred Arts of Haiti

Wed 6 November 2019
The Rite Of Spring, Phoenix Dance Credit: Tristram Kenton

“Intoxicatingly good, and brilliantly played to boot” - The Arts Desk

 “Staggeringly good, filled to the brim with danger, tension and excitement” - British Theatre Guide

 “…a beautiful, immersive stretch of the contemporary dance imagination." - The Culture Vulture

These are just some of the reviews for the acclaimed Phoenix Dance Theatre’s ‘Rite of Spring’ and ‘Left Unseen’, two pieces that will be performed alongside each other this weekend at MAC. 

Find out more about the fascinating Haitian influences behind Haitian-born choreographer Jeanguy Saintus' re-envisioning of Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring ahead of the upcoming performances here...

The Rite Of Spring, Phoenix Dance Credit: Tristram Kenton

In 1913 when the Ballet Russes performed to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring for the first time audience members at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées were shocked at the avant-garde nature of the work and apparently broke out into riots.

In the original version, audiences see a story from Pagan Russia unfold as dancers recreate rituals celebrating the advent of spring and eventually a girl, chosen as the sacrificial victim, dances herself to death. Saintus, who believes we see “far too much sacrifice in the world” challenges this notion, dispelling of the sacrificial victim and instead tells his story of Haitian vodou, ceremony and celebration. 

The Rite Of Spring, Phoenix Dance Credit: Tristram Kenton

So, what is Haitian vodou?

Often demonised by the Western Hollywood stereotype of dark magic and witches sticking pins into dolls, Haitian vodou, is in fact, a religion like any other. Practitioners of the faith believe in Bondye (the Supreme Creator) and its subservient the Loa (spirits). Each Loa is responsible for different aspects of life and have very specific characteristics. Vodouists (Haitian Vodou followers) create special relationships with The Loa through the presentation of offerings, gifts and large celebrations with music, dance and spirit possession. It is these stories that play out in Saintus’ reworking for the Company. 

Who will you see?

The Marasa, the divine twins

Damballa, the serpent spirit and creator of life

Ogou, the spirit that rules over fire, iron, war and blacksmiths

Erzuli, a female spirit of love, beauty and jewellery

Saintus’ take on The Rite of Spring sees the Phoenix dancers journey through the offerings made in Haitian vodou and the consequential ceremonies associated with the practice as individuals are overcome by the different spirits until the final dance where the performers compete to be overcome by Erzuli. 

Join us for The Rite of Spring and Left Unseen, and book your tickets for these unmissable dance performances at MAC on 8 - 9 November 2019 here.