The Rite of Spring

The dynamics of violence

“…one day I was overcome by the vision of a great heathen ceremony: old wise men are sitting in a circle and watching the death dance of a young girl who is about to be sacrificed…”

Igor Strawinsky

“The sense of the excess is the act itself, the blood bath. The killers rile themselves up mutually to the kill.”

Wolfgang Sofsky


Cast of the world premiere on 2 December 1999 at the FFT-Juta Düsseldorf

Music: Igor Stravinsky
Music editing: J.U.Lensing
Musical assistance: Michael Scheibenreiter
New libretto: Ensemble of TdK
Choreography of the opening dance: Joachim Schlömer
Choreographic assistance: Jacqueline Fischer
Choreographies in the further course: J. U. Lensing/Kerstin Hörner with the collaboration of the entire ensemble and advice from Carlos Cortizo
Project Management: Jörg U. Lensing
Artistic management office: Julia Galinke
Poster and program design: Ernst Merheim
Photos: Oliver Eltinger
Concert grand: Osia Toptsi, Michael Zischang
Staging: Jörg U. Lensing
Assistant director: Clemente Fernandez
Stage design: Udo Lensing
Costumes: Caterina Di Fiore
Lighting design: Thomas Neuhaus
Performance / Dance: Ariane Brandt, Clemente Fernandez, Mirko Girmann, Kerstin Hörner, Gudrun Lange, Moritz Möller,
Maura Morales, Francisco Orjales-Mourente, Matthias Weiland

About the Production

“The rite of spring – The dynamism of violence” was the title of our production in 1999, wich marked a new direction for the THEATER DER KLAENGE.

Igor Stravinsky composed “The Rite of Spring” between 1911 and 1913 for the “Ballets russes”. The opening in Paris in 1913 gave rise to a scandal. The reason was the till then unheard artistic application of brutality and power to the musical, and of the primitive to the realm of dance. But that alone could not have been the cause for discontent. One year before the outbreak of the first world war, there was a general feeling that the long period of peace of the “Belle Epoque”could soon experience a brutal, eruptive and barbaric ending.

Still today – and for that piece nearing the end of this ultimately brutal twentieth century and likewise after a long period of peace in Europe, the signs are ever increasing that uncontrolled outbreaks of violence – also in Europe, are multiplying. “The butcher doesn’t content himself with economical killing. He wants to feel what he does. For this reason he tortures and mutilates his victims. He kills in mass. Violence holds as proof of his affiliations. – The sense of the excess is the act itself, the blood bath. The killers rile themselves up mutually to the kill.” (Wolfgang Sofsky in “Die Zeit” (“Time”) 15/98)

Stravinsky has described in “The Rite of Spring” this ritualistic process of the “blood victim”. “…one day I was overcome by the vision of a great heathen ceremony: all kinds of men were sitting in a circle and watched the death dance of a young girl who was about to be sacrificed…” The theme is unfortunately still, or again, current. It was essential to find its relevance to our times.

The music of Igor Strawinsky was played at first original in his version for piano for 4 hands for a solo dance skilfully choreographed by Joachim Schlömer. This solo artistically dancing presentation before pictures of Francis Bacon is interrupted abruptly by culprits who “attack” this event and select themselves the “virgin” in the form of the solo dancer as the victim.
The disgrace process of the cultural presentation, violates the protagonists on the stage (pianist and dancer), the audience, as well as Strawinsky’s music. The music is loudly continued in a Tecno-music treatment. Only when the victim is selected and tortured in a ritual form, the music from the loudspeakers is again Strawinsky in the orchestra version of 1960, conducted by himself.

This piece marks an exception in the way the THEATER DER KLANGE was going on. It is the only piece which was produced in form of an action theatre and which is completely based on a ready music of a famous composer.
It pretended in the 12th year of the existence of the THEATER DER KLAENGE a layout for another artistic direction, which gets on in a discourse with contemporary theatrical trends and dance trends and continued this in the most different manner in particular in the following interactive-intermedia pieces and Collage-forms.

The Rite of Spring: Press

When the dancers leave the stage after one hour, an uneasy silence falls upon the audience. The dance of horror with which the “Theater der Klaenge” tears across the “Juta” stage, painfully recalls the tortures of the concentration camps, the war crimes in Kosovo and East Timor, the assassinations in Algerian Villages, black ritual ceremonies, the excessive Neonazi violences, the horrific plans of children in the bavarian forest who wanted to shoot their teacher dead. One needs time to recover. Then drops of applause meet the dancer’s petrified faces. By the third curtain call, smiles reappear on their lips, as the audience has released the tension through clapping, and are in the position to praise the dancers for their outstanding performance, by tramping and applause.

The 1913 world premiere of the piece on which this performance was based happened quite differently. At the Champs Elysees Theater in Paris there was uproar, indignation and outbursts of rage. Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, choreographed by Nijinsky, became a scandal. People did not tolerate the violence. It would however break out a year later in the first World War.

Today, at the end of our century, we can only respond to this violence with apprehensive resignation. It is delivered to us on a daily basis in our living rooms. And almost anybody can report his own personal story of violence, as did the dancers at the beginning of the production.

The Stravinsky – Nijinsky production dealt with the ritual sacrifice of a virgin in the dim and distant past. Joerg Lensing and his troupe brought the subject to the present. They supplanted parts of the Stravinsky music with their own compositions consisting of roaring industrial and percussion sounds. They made a gripping subject able to be experienced with all senses: the smell of sweat hanging in the air, the blinding flashlights, the earsplitting crash sounds during the assault of the six criminals.

An experience discordant as a corrida, which is related to us at the onset by one of the dancers: swaying between the disgust, fascination and exhilaration of masses and
power, the archetypal death and violence and the horror of this fascination. The violence is in each one of us and is a group act. The piece stands clear without the
need to spill red dye or body fluids all over the stage, as Christoph Schliengensief would do.

The “Theater der Klaenge” restricts itself to the use of a bucket full of mud. In an impressive scene of avowal of brotherhood and friendship – worshipping and conspiring with their violence guru (Clemente Fernandez) – the six smear their upper naked bodies. Together they are strong, strengthened by their leader and their uniform, ready to let all hell loose. This is not a contest of strength. Here a powerless victim (the very moving Maura Morales) must be the one to suffer in order to help a group of weaklings experience a short frenzy of superiority.

The choreography by Joachim Schloemer, Jacqueline Fischer, Kerstin Hoerner and Joerg Lensing demands from the dancers utmost precision and energy. Or else there is the danger of getting hurt. In that sense the piece has yet another appeal on a second level, which plays itself in the staging: the concern over the intactness of the acting ensemble; a rope act on a steel cable, as exciting as the throwing of knifes in the circus. Also a fascination which provokes disquiet.

The ones who are familiar with the “Theater der Klaenge” may be surprised about this piece. It is different than what has been seen before: no feast of masks and costume, no endless scene medleys. Instead, short, succinct and volcanic, a huge amount of material to think about. Astonishing, but really not. The spirit of experimentation of this company has once more turned a new page.

Rheinische Post

“Violence has a lot of faces. The “Theater der Klaenge” has closely inspected, recorded the scent, followed the curve of the oppressive escalating spiral, soaked the atmosphere of opening night with the sweat of hysterical group dynamics, and left behind an initially flabbergasted but soon after enthusiastically applauding audience.

The contemporary answer to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” ballet of 1913 gets under your skin, without break, without mercy. It abstains from words of explanation, leaves the aggressive language to bodies and music. (…) The ecstatic frenzy is at the same time a frighteningly perfect choreography in dull stamping leaps, exhausting gasps. The helplessness of the Victim hurts. (…) What to do?, beyond the knowledge of self, asks himself the spectator. After a performance which doesn’t aim for the head, but for the pit of the stomach and means to be a comment on the increase of brutality.”


“When the eight young people (three women, five men) first roll onto the stage floor, rocking silently back and forth, the audience has no idea yet of the hurricane like storm that will shortly sweep across the Juta (Junges Theater in der Altstadt). The “Theater der Klaenge” from Duesseldorf delivers with its eleventh production a commentary on violence in the 20th century , an adaption of the 1913 infamous “Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky, whose suggestive music described a victimisation ceremony. In “The Rite” the ensemble reaches out for drastic means, pulls us into a current of eccessive displays power (…) The public needs time to free themselves out of stunned paralysis. First a tentative applause, which increases unexpectedly, honoring an unsettling, unnerving performance which leaves one not comfortable “


” (…) this frightful production, to which even the half of the title falls victim. The Rite of Spring? Spring has vanished, the victim stays. The sweat of the dancers lingers in the air, or is it the sweat of fear of the spectator? The roaring of the gloomy drumbox-beats is still echoing, the oppressive atmosphere pounds, the terror of power drags and wears down. Lust and frenzy vibrate. An explosion of cruelty. The hunger to kill. A masterful feat of strength, a strain, depressing images. (…) The main part of the first section “The kiss of the earth”, will be molded out of techno- drumrolls and reduced percussion, the dance and images of the second section, “The big victim” will then accompany Stravinsky’s original orchestral music. A highlight to this evening of the extreme is Joachim Schloemer’s opening dance: the delicate hesitant beginning solo “Dance of the virgin” to the live accompaniment by pianist Osia Toptsi and Michael Zischang (…).”

” (…) here in the “Jungen Theater in der Altstadt” in Duesseldorf, tremendous and violent depth for spectators who have not yet become deadened to the reality of the news on TV. (…) The staging in three parts is well thought out -perhaps too much. The concrete stories, told in monologues, about forms of violence – in war, on the street, against foreigners, to animals, is followed by an abrupt scene change, namely the pure, beautifully flowing, self-sufficient “Dance of the maiden”, and then further a more severe break, when the young girl and a second one fall victim of a rampaging boys gang, who play their bad jokes on them. (…) To evoke a feeling for the omnipresence of power, to make its latent nearness perceptible – that is the concern of the “Theater der Klaenge”. That is felt every minute of the performance, the message comes over, unreserved, unfiltered, direct (…)

The Rite of Spring: Sound