Wednesday November 19, 2008 - Tonya and I were invited to a rehearsal for the Joyce SoHo's presentation of Andonis Foniadakis' setting of Stravinsky's RITE OF SPRING. Originally staged by Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve, the work has now been transformed into a solo version danced by Ioanna Toumpakari.
We entered the intimate performing space to find Ms. Toumpakari - an extremely pretty woman in jeans and a tee-shirt - standing with the choreographer. Ioanna steps out of her clothing and into a thong; Andonis applies body paint to her face and legs. He leaves her alone and she begins to walk around the stage area, limping slightly. Then the music of the Stravinsky RITE begins and so commences one of the most demanding solos ever set on a dancer. For forty minutes, Ioanna's body becomes an expressive vessel as she dances not a rite of sacrifice but a rite of feminine passage, seeking to connect with her most primitive aspect.
The work is structured: full of steps and combinations of an almost balletic feeling yet there is an air of spontaneity and the movement can dissolve into moments of intense stillness. Mirroring the savage sounds of the score's densest moments, Ioanna becomes almost beast-like. Her body shapes poses and skims about the space with remarkable fluidity of motion; her feet seem to carry her almost with a will of their own from one phrase to the next. Although she is nearly naked, there is something pre-erotic about her performance in its elemental femininity. Moments of raw power alternate with passages where her vulnerability shows thru. Even when the movement pauses the emotions never do.
Ioanna gives a performance of incredible commitment and profound intensity. In this unusual work, Andonis asks everything of his dancer. And she gives it.
I am very keen to see this again and grateful to Cathy and Jenny of Joyce SoHo for arranging the opportunity.