29th of May 1913 marked the international history of ballet and modern music era with the huge avant-garde explosion. It was a world premiere of the ballet that changed the perception of performing arts, in my opinion, forever.
My RITE OF SPRING painting series is a collection of 14 full figure portraits of Polish National Ballet dancers. It is a tribute to the most revolutionary ballet, “The Rite of Spring/Le Sacre du Printemps” (1913) by Nijinsky, to Stravinsky’s music. The series is based on the choreography and costume reconstruction research of Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer. Each painting reflects poses taken from the original choreography. Dancers are divided into two groups according to the two acts of the stage performance – day and night that shows the journey of the Sun and Moon and leads to the romantic finale – a sacrifice of a Chosen Maiden that dances herself to death.
Here is a short story of one painting…
In 2011 I started to work in The Grand Theatre – National Opera House (Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa) in my hometown, Warsaw. To my content I became a 3rd member of the Costume Painting department. One day the opera house started grand preparations for the new production. It was a stage reconstruction of a very important ballet piece “The Rite of Spring” by Vaslav Nijinsky. During the works I met a lot of very interesting personalities and I simply fell in love with the visual, the spiritual and the emotional aspect of this production. After hours spent in recreating 135 colors from the original palette, and a year of painting reconstructed patterns on the stage costumes for all the dancers (headgear, ballet shoes with bands, tunics, trousers and dresses) I started to have nightmares… The tons of shoes that I painted were chasing me until stomping over and suffocating… I knew I had to find a valve for all this passion “The Rite” imprinted me with… It had to be something very personal. I decided to paint portraits of all the characters that appear in the ballet. All 104 of them. It took me over one year to finish 14 nearly full figure paintings with portraits of actual Polish National Ballet Dancers, so perfectly on time for the 100th anniversary of the original “Le Sacre du Printemps” ballet premiere.
“The Rite of Spring” tells us a story of an old Russian tribe. We are the witnesses of the pagan rite ceremonies that take place every spring to celebrate the good heart of god Yarylo – the god of spring, sun and prosperity. As a thankful sacrifice there is one maiden chosen from the tribe. In the magical moonlight sage elders seated in a circle watch this young girl dance herself to death. Her sacrifice propitiates the god. But there is another, more metaphorical angle to the story. The girl doesn’t just die… She agrees to sacrifice her mortality and her life on Mother Earth to became one with the god of Sun. She dies here, for us, but on the other side she starts a new life as a eternal bride of god Yarylo. She becomes a Princess and joins her beloved in the everlasting life.
My painting shows The Chosen Maiden one second before exhaling for the last time. She is a little scared but full of hope. A single tear marks her wide open and scared eyes. She already knows that this is it. Her braided hair is still in motion. The necklace bounces up and down pointing with the middle pendant onto her face as if choosing her. The wrists with golden bracelets imply the aspect of imprisonment. She opens her palms in the surrender while the naked body slowly dissolves in the moonlight. Faded and smudged shoes underline the vanishing.
During working on the “Rite of Spring” reconstruction in the Opera House, I overstrained my right hand. Excessive pressure while painting led to the injury and I had to go through a hand surgery to remove a bump from my palm.
As a result the compositions of my first canvases from “Rite of Spring” painting series I had to draw about with my left, functioning hand. Only half way through constructing paintings with layers of colors I could start to use my right hand. “The Chosen One” I started with the left one. Finished and applied details with the right one, hence the palm of the Maiden has a hidden scar on the inside of the right hand. A hidden self-portrait as my passion and pain joined the sacrificial dance.