“The Rite of Spring” with a Mexican twist

In this re-imagining of the ballet, a ritual of the ancient Mexica people is set to the rhythm of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky
“The Rite of Spring” with a Mexican twist
“The Rite of Spring” presentation in Mexico City - Photo: Irvin Olivares/EL UNIVERSAL
Alida Piñón
Mexico City
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 At the Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico's National Dance Company presented this Saturday night to great acclaim the premiere of “The Rite of Spring” with the music of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Demis Volpi, inspired in the ritual of the ancient god of the native peoples of Mexico, Xipe Tótec.

Volpi, who has been invited as a choreographer by the American Ballet Theater, created this version of “The Rite of Spring” for the National Dance Company upon the request of its artistic director, Mario Galizzi; the result is a ballet that reinterprets Nijinsky's choreography and Roerich's design of 1913, and offers a powerful performance.

(“The Rite of Spring” presentation in Mexico City - Photo: Irvin Olivares/EL UNIVERSAL)

In the original version, a young woman is sacrificed as part of a Spring ritual of Pagan Russia and dances herself to death before the eyes of her tribe – although there is no official record of this having ever happened in history. Yet, in the vision of Volpi, the human sacrifice is a young man, played superbly by Julio Morel.

According to archeologist Carlos Javier González, Volpi's advisor, Xipe Tótec – "our skinned lord" – was one of the most important gods for the Mexica people and was honored during the festivity of Tlacaxipehualiztli, a ritual celebrated during the Spring equinox.

As part of the ritual, the Mexica people would skin warriors or enemies during the celebration, and the carcasses would have been then worn by the young men to become living images of the god.

Volpi successfully presents to us this Mexica ceremony to the rhythm of Stravinsky and builds cohesive narratives with the warriors, women, and the tribe, and develops the character of the man to be sacrificed.

The aesthetics live up to the work created by Pina Bausch and Maurice Béjart. The set design of Jorge Ballina and the costume design of Jerildy Bosch show us hues in brown that highlight the elements of earth and blood.

(“The Rite of Spring” presentation in Mexico City - Photo: Irvin Olivares/EL UNIVERSAL)​

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