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Meadows Dance Professor Christopher Dolder to premiere documentary at Dallas Videofest on Oct. 18 about the making of SMU's new Rite of Spring

Classic work re-imagined by noted Dutch choreographer Joost Vrouenraets debuted in 2013 at SMU to critical acclaim

Last year, the Meadows Dance Ensemble premiered a stunning new version of The Rite of Spring by award-winning Dutch choreographer Joost Vrouenraets, created especially for Meadows students in honor of The Rite’s 100th anniversary. The piece received rave reviews from area critics and was named best dance performance of the year by the Dallas Observer.

A new documentary about the making of the work, created by Meadows Assistant Professor of Dance Christopher Dolder, will premiere at the Dallas VideoFest on Saturday, October 18. Titled Meadows at the Winspear Rite of Spring, the 66-minute film follows Vrouenraets and Meadows faculty and students through the rigorous three months of rehearsal and the final performances, held at both the Meadows Spring Dance Concert at SMU and at the Meadows at the Winspear annual gala at the Winspear Opera House in the Dallas Arts District.

The Rite of Spring premiered in 1913 in Paris to greater storms of controversy than any other ballet in history. With a revolutionary score by Stravinsky and innovative choreography by Nijinsky, the original ballet evoked a primitive Slavonic ritual glorifying the rites of spring, concluding with a human sacrifice. Vrouenraets developed a new version that he called “more of a mirror for the 21st century.” He envisioned a contemporary, universal and timeless tribal ritual, inspired by myriad symbols and representations of our high-tech, restless, multi-focused and voracious global culture. In his Rite, a 21st-century tribe of young virgins was moved by their desire to manipulate, control and reproduce; they secretly and ritually created a new being – represented by an enigmatic golden puppet – which, in order to become fully realized, sought an encounter with a pure soul chosen by the group.

“Joost’s somewhat ‘graphic novel’ approach to choreography lends itself to a filmic representation of his work,” said Dolder. “This ‘making of’ documentary, which includes an edited version of the complete dance, provides for the viewer a more intimate and visceral platform for experiencing this new take on Rite of Spring.”

The film project came about somewhat unexpectedly. Vrouenraets was commissioned by SMU to create the new dance, and Dolder was initially tapped as the production’s rehearsal director. Their artistic relationship soon blossomed. Vrouenraets, the founder of Gotra Ballet in the Netherlands, had formerly studied dance at the Rudra Béjart studio/school in Switzerland and danced for Béjart’s Company M and Ballet Lausanne. Dolder, a former soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company, had danced in Graham’s Rite of Spring over 1,000 times.

“Joost studied Graham while at Bejart, and when he found out that I had been a soloist with Martha, he asked for my feedback on the first few rehearsals,” said Dolder. “He then asked if I would take on the role of dramaturge and become more fully vested artistically in the work. As Joost and I became both collaborators and then later friends, I showed him various bits of my long-term documentary project The Ecstatic Dance of Burning Man, which is set to premiere at the Burning Man Festival in 2015. He asked if I could show footage from the unpublished documentary to the board of directors of Gotra. I did, and they hired me to document the entire process of developing Rite of Spring and subsequently create a publishable film.”

Nine months in the making, the film melds multiple performances and rehearsals from both SMU and the Winspear into one finished product. It is slated to be screened at two separate festivals in Europe in 2015.

At the Dallas VideoFest, the film is being paired with Fallen Angel II by Mark Whittier, a 30-minute documentary about the rise, fall, and rise again of the Bruce Wood Dance Company/Bruce Wood Dance Project.

The two films will screen beginning at 8:15 p.m. on October 18 at the Angelika Theater, 5321 East Mockingbird Lane in Dallas. Tickets are $8. For more information, visit here.

About the Dallas VideoFest

Now in its 27th year, Dallas VideoFest is the oldest and largest video festival in the U.S. and is produced annually by the Video Association of Dallas. Approximately 175 films have been chosen to screen at multiple locations during this year’s festival from October 8-19, 2014, including narrative and documentary features, shorts, animation and experimental videos. The festival will also include panel discussions and offer professional development and collaborative opportunities for attendees and artists. The festival specializes in independent, alternative, and non-commercial media, presenting hard-to-find works rarely seen on television, in movie theaters, or elsewhere. For more information, visit here.

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