Igor Stravinsky’s and Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused riots when it was first performed in May 1913. At least that’s the legend. Over 200 students at Carolina this year examined this modernist classic from every possible angle, in classes taught in the Departments of History, English, Art, Music and Communication Studies. They also attended performances in Memorial Hall that featured new works by contemporary artists that were inspired by the Stravinsky/Nijinsky original. Plus there were opportunities to talk with visiting artists and scholars—and to research every aspect of the piece, including whether there really was a riot. Among the many highlights were the Joffrey Ballet’s reconstruction of the original Rite, the puppeteer Basil Twist’s playful reinterpretation, and Bill T. Jones and Anne Bogart’s somber meditation on PTSD as today’s version of the original Rite’s sacrifice.
The idea at the heart of this initiative was to find a way to more fully integrate classes, faculty research, and Carolina Performing Art’s (CPA) season. With major funding from the Mellon Foundation and the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, the IAH put together the schedule of classes and awarded four faculty fellowships to projects exploring artistic modernism, while CPA commissioned new works, and the Department of Music organized two scholarly conferences, one in Chapel Hill and one in Moscow.
Student, faculty and audience feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. English professor Erin Carlston wonders how she will ever be able to teach her modernist literature class again without the luxury of bringing in scholars of dance and music to talk to her students about modernism in the other arts. And where else in the world this year have 1,200 people come on two consecutive nights to hear Russia’s Marinsky Orchestra play the Stravinsky score in all its bombastic glory?
We’d like to thank everyone who was involved in The Rite of Spring at 100 initiative, particularly our creative faculty who developed courses and the eager students and community members who attended the world-class performances.
Like any success, the Rite of Spring project has inspired us to continue our ambitious efforts, and the IAH is now hard at work with a group of faculty to organize a similar suite of events, conferences, classes, and performances around the centenary of World War I. We will take a year to plan (and to catch our breath!), but you can look forward to academic year 2014-2015 for another coordinated merger of the arts on campus, the research interests of faculty across a wide range of disciplines, and a set of classes tuned in to various extra-curricular events.