The last time I saw the Joffrey's brother-sister act, now being remounted, was in March 1990. The company had recently revived Bronislava Nijinska's 1923 Les noces ("The Wedding"), just two years after it reconstructed a more famous work by her brother, Vaslav Nijinsky's 1913 Le sacre du printemps ("The Rite of Spring"). Both works are thrilling--brilliantly original and viscerally exciting as well as historically important--but I found Les noces more modern and more moving. Both use scores by Igor Stravinsky (the lesser-known one for Les noces employs 4 pianos, 17 percussion instruments, and a chorus). Both draw on Russian folk life and ritual. Both detail a sacrifice of the young by the old in fertility rites. But where the Chosen One in Sacre must die, the bride and groom in Les noces receive a more common sentence: a lifelong union imposed on them by others. Where Sacre is an outdoor dance, Les noces takes place indoors, the dancers surrounded by walls that emphasize the constrictions of a society more "civilized" than the one that rules Sacre but no less inexorable. Where in Sacre the dancers continually leap skyward, in Les noces they're squashed: Nijinska employs horizontal lines, often having the dancers lay their heads on others' shoulders to create a row of tilted faces. Where Sacre has a primitive, monolithic quality, Les noces is psychologically nuanced: the bride and groom's mothers stand with their backs to us before the closed doors of their children's bedchamber, making us wonder whether they're there to bar escape or rescue their loved ones. Seeing Les noces (which hasn't been performed in this country since 1991) with Sacre once again represents an unparalleled opportunity. Also on the "Diaghilev Dynasty" program, the first of two by the Joffrey this spring, is Leonide Massine's 1917 Parade, with music by Erik Satie and decor by Pablo Picasso. Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 312-902-1500; 312-922-2110, ext. 4, for groups of ten or more. Through March 2: Thursday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Friday, 7:30 PM; Saturday, 2 and 7:30 PM; Sunday, 2 PM. $20-$74.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/2003 Migdoll.