Adam Hougland: Rite of Spring Q&A

Adam Hougland Q&A: Rite of Spring

Tell us about Rite of Spring.

It’s a piece I made in 2009 for the Louisville Ballet, where I’m also a resident choreographer. This will be the third time the piece has been performed, so I’m really excited to be bringing it here to Cincinnati. It has amazing scenic and costume design by Marian Williams who also did Mozart’s Requiem as well as Firebird.

Can you give insight into how you brought a new narrative and setting into a piece that already has a sort of history?

When I was working on coming up with a concept for the scenery and costumes, I thought about our culture today and how we’re so disconnected from things that are natural; we’re not as in touch with the environment. The music is about a pagan ritual to the Earth, but people now don’t have that sort of exultation, so I wanted the setting to not be so pretty. I wanted it to be almost underground, like a dungeon – it looks like a subway station so there is a claustrophobic and creepy sense. The dancers appear to be part of a culture that is devoid of its soul, like they’re dead inside. In the end, the chosen one ends up sacrificing herself to escape the soulless existence and she dances herself to death.

But the piece isn’t without hope…

Absolutely not. We learn most from the things that are hard in life, the things that are tragic and sad. The only way we can move forward is to ask why life is the way it is and to figure out how to move forward. How do you escape and not become part of the mindless, soulless mob; how do you become an individual? That’s who the chosen one is. She’s trying to break away.

Describe the movement in the piece.

It’s very rough and grounded, not balletic and pretty, but it has a tragic sort of beauty about it. The chosen one has a bit more expansiveness because of her desperation.

What kind of reception did the piece get when it premiered in Louisville in 2009?

The piece got great reception when it premiered and also when it was performed again in 2011. I’ve been a resident choreographer for the Louisville Ballet for six or seven years and it’s the first piece that we repeated. I’ve always been doing new stuff for the company but “Rite of Spring” was a big success so the director of the Louisville Ballet, Bruce Simpson, wanted to bring it back. The whole community isn’t able to see a show when it only plays for a weekend, so since it was brought back, more people were able to experience it.

What are you particularly excited about bringing Rite of Spring to Cincinnati and to the dancers of the Cincinnati Ballet?

It’s the sort of piece the dancers will grab and tear into. The company is so technically strong and they have so much attack and power and I’m very excited to watch them dive into it. There is so much energy and I’m interested to see how it morphs on these dancers. They are so ready to do this piece after working with me on Requiem and Firebird.

Anything else you’d like to say about the piece?

Prepare to experience something that will make you think!