(LE SACRE DU PRINTEMPS) by Igor Stravinsky Staging by Roger Bernat based on choreography by Pina Bausch


Members of the audience are given three-channel headphones and welcomed into the performance space to the sound of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, one of the leading ballets from the last century, of which Pina Bausch made a historic version in 1975. Several voices can be heard –different ones on each channel. Voices in parallel that diverge and overlap. Spectators play the leading role in a show that is both a game and choreography.


Spanish director Roger Bernat’s production of The Rite of Spring exudes such turbulen- ce, sensitivity and classical beauty that it leaves many traditional—and essentially visual—theatre productions behind. […] Agamben’s piercing thoughts are hard to express in a show, yet Bernat manages to create a captivating and sensitive work of art. Maria Säkö, Helsingin Sanomat (Finland), 26.10.2014. 

ExtraordinarioCarmen del Val, EL PAIS (España). 26.04.2015

A intensa experiência do encontro com o passado ainda colocou em jogo discussões próprias à dança, como autoria e o poder do coreógrafo em relação aos intérpretes. Adriana Pavlova, O Globo (Brasil), 11.11.13

Une énergie furieusement contagieuse. (…) Au-delà de la légèreté et de la convivialité de cette création à l’interactivité forte, c’est un acte presque politique que celui de Roger Bernat. Élise Ternat, Les Trois Coups.com, 02.12.2013

I REMEMBER ONLY, text by Roberto Fratini

I remember only the grandious moment / when they suddenly started to sing / as if pre-arranged.

A. Schönberg. A survivor from Warsaw

Seduced by a deadly equation between action and passion, between solitude and sharing, between Eternity and Instantaneity, in the performativity of ritual the 20th century has pursued this same approach to the totality that the irony of History took charge of infallibly deriving into a thousand re-editions of totalitarianism. And it has pursued it as a dream is pursued, with the obstinacy with which desire replaces perplexity in the dream, leaving it to pursue its paradox, because desiring it is the best way not to determine it. Dreaming, deep down, the paradox of the massacres of History, which is the repeatability of the unrepeatable, in the cathartic form of this, which through antonomasia repeats God knows what original and unrepeatable event. This is the narcotic advantage of the ritual, the repository of an infinite habitability of origins as, in like manner, the myth is of its narrability.

This must be why, to expose the astute oneirism of all ritual excitation, which is why Roger Bernat and his troupe’s Rite of spring begins, distorting its same source, with the hallucination of a strange identity between the reclining woman in the Bauschian Frühlingsopfer and Aurora, the Sleeping Beauty of Petipa’s grand ballet, in a curious chiasmus wherein she who stays awake facing the possible sacrifice of her youth coincides with she who sleeps; there where, in addition, the vigilant protocol of a whole civilization of ballet and dreamed licentiousness from the first modernism converge in a single way of lying. When in the exergue of two formidable world massacres Stravinsky and Nijinsky pointed out the bloody transfusion point between dance and modernity in ritual violence, participation was imperative but still metaphorical: the arrogant offer to the Parisian public of a vicarious catharsis which that public made less metaphorical and more its own, transforming the auditorium of the Théâtre des Champs Elysées into the scene of a riot that was quite widespread and loud enough to silence the roar of the Stravinskian score.

Thus the first and catastrophic Rite of Spring illustrated the great perceptive malice that underlies the very concept of choreography: the fact that before a real or occasionally ingenuous public a designed dance always seems the conspiracy of a small community given to the predefined gestures of a dark and potentially subversive cult, and in pronouncing this new performative religiousness it showed its paradox—that in order for the secular parish of the consumers of modernity to benefit from it, the mystical communion should parasitize the forms of critical and dialectic discourse and inevitably echo that dogma of participation (it was never known whether mystical or solely mnesic) which still today characterizes this thing called culture. Moreover, the mystical hypnosis was destined to decline in the hypervigilant forms of democratic, unconditional criticism in that which, in turn, resembled a proliferating religion with a metadiscourse of small magnitude, with its myths and rites, with its enthusiasms and obnubilations, with its ceremonies and canonizations. And constantly pursuing it, in the progressive expansion of its participation thresholds, was the “letter” of the ritual promise: a spectator that is less and less expectant and spectant, more and more literally “actant”—ready to sacrifice to its cult (which in this point is the cult to an aporetic and collective self) the very object of this cult; at base to sacrifice the work as an event extrinsic to itself and itself as a spectator extrinsic to the work.

We conspire, inspire, expire—democratically. Postmodernism is the place of this exact literalness and of a literal and paradoxical eclipse of the spectacle in favor of a ritual whose sole object, whose sole myth is pure circumstantiality, the pure coincidentality of the spectators in the place and time of the cultural consumption. At the height of this general enchantment it seems appropriate, if not urgent, to return to sculpting a certain turbulence; writing it, perhaps. Or to return to exposing the dangerous background of all confusion between action and passion which is, in the end, the unprecedented similarity between agitation and reaction, the vanishing point in which, telescopically, sacrifice and murder overlap.

It is no coincidence that the referent chosen by Bernat was Pina Bausch’s Frühlingsopfer from 1975, the only danced edition of Stravinsky’s musical text that did not purport to transfigure the violent reach of the 1913 libretto by “deconstructing it”, but which, to the contrary, respected point by point the fatal plot of the original, in any case deconstructing the prestige of all rituals and especially this one, which was revealed, following R. Girard’s exegesis, as an unacceptable case of violent unanimity and, after all is said and done, a murder.

Demythified, demystified, Pina Bausch’s Frühlingsopfer would suggest a ruthless invasion of reality, mortality and fallibility into the protocols of choreography that heralded all of the Tanztheater of the 1980s like an unmasking of the choreographic ritual. In many ways, it is precisely in the nature of this fatal inefficiency of the body with respect to the mandates of a rhythm called dance where Pina Bausch’s Frühlingsopfer (with the death of the Chosen One) plays out and Roger Bernat’s experiment in actuated paraphrase begins (with the willful dance of a fatally inefficient body which is that of the spectator). This is because the crime of participatory postmodernism is of a different nature: the confirmation that the deflation of experience (the hyperexperience, the world as absolute interactivity) has come to eliminate all discrimination between reality and illusion. In the context of the participatory spectacle, the spectator’s invasion produces an analogous effect. Called in body and action to “complete” the fiction, he invariably ends up turning fiction into reality. It is the perfect crime to which Baudrillard refers with exquisite indolence. And it is, in its way, the crime that affirms a ritual called culture in a way that is more literal than symbolic—a much more perfect crime when, far from involving violent implications, it confers participation with a playful profile: self-sufficiency of the mechanism and definitive evanescence of the sacred referent.

Now, the interesting aspect of the participatory system brought to the stage by Roger Bernat is precisely that of consuming the evanescence of the “cultual” protocol leaving it in a cultural behavior; that of completing, in short, a euphoric reduction of the rite to mechanism, thanks to the dialectic power of the interlocution, of the instruction, of the paraphrase (which at base is the choice of a hypotext, a “precedent” of 1975).

Is not the spectator who acts deep down a spectator “acted” by the mechanism? What might the statute of her presence appeal to? To the incoherent and amusing spectacle of one’s own insufficiency and that of others in a choreography that is never shown but only described (to become once again something written au fond)? To the mnesic experience entailed by looking at Bausch’s original choreography against the light once more, in the interval that exists between words and images? To the narration/paraphrase/description/instruction received through headphones, which is always partial?

There is something extraordinarily subversive in the act of proposing that the public experience a ritual while the instructions that convey the happening are nothing more than the paraphrase of an existing choreography, an authorized and earlier “version” of the same ritual. And it is precisely because the ballet of ballet (already ritualized by the incense of official culture) is being performed, what in its time was the ballet of a ritual, that in Bernat’s Rite of spring the public can experience a live desanctification of the Rite of Spring, which is also the demythification of all spontaneist myths inspired by participatory performance: “let’s play at massacring the massacre,” which means, after all, that there is no great difference between the performative behavior of the informed and active spectator and the apparent passivity of the spectator who “simply receives instructions.” I insist on the fact that Bernat’s Rite of spring is at the antipodes of any totalitarian risk, and far from any suspicion of manipulation, precisely because of this normative writing—because there is a gulf between “instruction” and “suggestion.” There is also a gulf between this mode d’emploi and the order to which the classic performative spectator aspires, always moved by an invading docility which is the invincible passion of acting.

Experience should have taught us that few things are so potentially totalitarian as being oneself under orders. The paradoxical ritual paraphrase that flows from the direction to the headphones of participants has, however, the force of a participatory proposal: something like a refrigeration system that forces the rite to be embodied no longer as a cognitive act (all rites are) but as a recognitive act (sculpted in many different orders of recognition and agnition: recognition of one’s own gesture in the gesture of others, recognition of the Bauschian gesture in the present of the reproduction—experienced intertextuality). It is neither suggestion nor order nor amnesty of instincts but a modal description that may be ignored and is in fact an occasion for disobedience, discrepancy, the turbulence of the assigned protocol. Ultimately this solitude, characteristic only of some intimist religions and of all ethics strictly speaking, so hostile to the great community, cultual and ritual apparatuses, is what annuls any spirituality of cultural consumption, but also any playful aspect that constitutes an end in itself.

The spectator does not simply act the mechanism, nor is he simply acted by the mechanism; he does something more extraordinarily refined than all of the haptic interferences celebrated by recent theater. He may, in every sense, blend in with the mechanism, that is, live the experience of the similarity, when he decides to carry out the behaviors proposed in a believable way, disappear, go unnoticed; he can pretend not to have ever heard the order he is receiving and that no one else knows is intended precisely for him; or execute the order that he has not at any time received. He can undertake the most effective dissidence, which is to conceal the fact that he disobeyed, such that not even the disobedience can be consumed. Experience the miracle of ritual ineffectiveness itself. And every time he “hears” the gestures that he will shortly thereafter carry out or not, literally sense his presence. And decide on it. Do what the Chosen One in the official versions never could: choose to allow himself to be danced by the text or limit himself to reading it. Disappear behind a reference system like the word. Or disappear behind a reference system like similarity. Save himself, in any case. Become eclipsed, perhaps, in the eclipse of the happening. Become concealed (the eclipse itself is a sun, concealed by the moon). And from his cone of shadow, which is the heart of darkness, the savage imperial solitude of the bad performer, conspire with or against himself in the end. And conspiring, conspiring against himself, dance his own survival.

Roberto Fratini is professor of theory of dance (at Pisa Univercity and Institut del Teatre de Barcelona) and critical methodology  (La universidad de L’Aquila).


Music: Igor Stravinsky Stage creation: Roger Bernat based on choreography by Pina Bausch In collaboration with: Txalo Toloza, María Villalonga, Ray Garduño, José-Manuel López Velarde, Tomás Alzogaray, Brenda Vargas, Diana Cardona, Annel Estrada and Viani Salinas Technical management: Txalo Toloza Sound design: Rodrigo Espinosa Editing: Juan Cristóbal Saavedra Vial Image design: Marie-Klara González Coordination: Helena Febrés Executive production Mexico: Alicia Laguna Production assistants Mexico: Antígona González, Mariana Toledo Runner: Don Moisés

Pictures made by BLENDA photographer – Mexico HERE

Cooproduction: Teatre Lliure and Elèctrica Produccions (Barcelona), Festival Instal·laccions/ Ajuntament de Cambrils and Festival Transversales (Mexico) with the support of the European Union Fund programme in Mexico.

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