writers on dancing


Risky Move

"The Rite of Spring, etc." by Michael Sakamoto
Theatre of Yugen
San Francisco, California
February 21, 2005

By Rita Felciano
copyright ©2005 by Rita Felciano

Choreographers take on great pieces of music at their own peril. It's something that Los Angeles-based Michael Sakamoto may not have taken into account when he started working on "The Rite of Spring, etc." He chopped Stravinsky's rehearsal score for piano—the same one that Paul Taylor used so brilliantly—sometimes at the most inopportune moments and interspersed it with both pop American and European music. Where he did use the Stravinsky, he almost exclusively pounced upon its propulsive rhythms, completing ignoring the complexity of their interlacing patterns.

This four performer "Rite" skirts the edge of dance; it probably would be equally at home in theater. The piece's premise is that each of the characters "sacrifices" defenses they have built around themselves. However, to try to connect this simple scenario to the original "Rite" is an act of absurdity in itself. The work does take full advantage of four talented performers: Sakamoto as a withdrawn monk, Suzan Averitt as a free spirit, Francesco Mazzini as an self-involved actor, and Nurit Siegel as a shy clown. Each of the four comes to embrace vulnerability in the course of the evening. Sakamoto steps down from his pedestal and tries to integrate opposing sides in this body; Averitt's monologue addresses her past of serial loves, Mazzini's strip tease leads him to accept his aging body; the elfin Siegel reveals a glittering personality to long constricted. Not surprisingly, the solos were more richly layered than the sometimes simplistic ensemble numbers.

Sakamoto and Siegel were the most dancerly performers in this quartet. Sakamoto is a beautifully nuanced dancer with a focused sense of the space The physicality of Siegel's silent clumsy clown was that character's most appealing asset. "Rite" would have been helped by some kind of supportive structure which would have told us why exactly these fellow travelers hooked up with each other.

Volume 3, No. 9
February 21, 2005

copyright 2005© Rita Felciano


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last updated on January31, 2005