Painting Inspires a New ‘Rite of Spring’

From "Sacre Project," which will be performed at the museum on Thursday, March 7.
From “Sacre Project,” which will be performed at the museum on Thursday, March 7.

Laguna Dance Festival celebrates the centenary of Stravinsky’s groundbreaking ballet “The Rite of Spring” with free dance performances at Laguna Art Museum during the March 7 First Thursdays Art Walk. This event marks the premiere of the “Primitive Mother” pieces, which were jointly commissioned by Laguna Dance Festival and the Laguna Art Museum. The choreography was inspired by a painting in the museum’s collection, “Primitive Mother (Primordial Days in Palm Springs),” by early 20th-century painter Elanor Colburn (1866—1939).

Shows will be performed at 6:30 and 8 p.m. at Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive. Admission is free. Three pieces will be danced in all, two of them world premiere commissions curated by UC Irvine dance professor Jodie Gates, who founded and directs the Laguna Dance Festival. At the 6:30 performance only, dancers will perform the two world premieres plus an excerpt from UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts Dance Department’s “The Sacre Project,” choreographed by Gates. Depicting the final minutes of a sacrificial figure referred to as The Chosen One, it is danced to Igor Stravinsky’s thundering, iconic score, “The Rite of Spring.”

The two world-premiere commissions include “The Moment Before,” choreographed by Melanie K. Hawkes and Stephanie R. Maughan. In this piece, as The Chosen One accepts her role as the sacrifice for the arrival of spring. The second commission, “Ceremonious,” an observation of a community in its devotion, was choreographed by Nia-Amina Minor and Mlondolozi Zondi.

Russian composer Stravinsky wrote “Le Sacre du Printemps” (“The Rite of Spring”) for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghiliv’s Ballets Russes company, with choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. The avant-garde ballet’s premiere on May 29, 1913 caused a near-riot among the performance’s well-heeled patrons for its jarring rhythms, discordant music, and jerking motions of the dancers on stage. The shock, however, wore off. “The Rite of Spring” has since been embraced as a classic masterwork that changed modern music and dance.

The Laguna Dance Festival continues to be an important showcase for dance companies and artists, and was singled out in Smithsonian Magazine last May as a reason for Laguna Beach’s selection as one of the “The 20 Best Small Towns in America.”

The festival’s September season will be announced shortly. Visit or call 949-715-5578.


Photo by Daniel Anderson

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