MMA and The Rite of Spring

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Men don’t dance with each other, they dance against each other. Choreographic common sense pitches men in rivalrous competition, usually over a woman – it is only through the language of violence that men are allowed to touch each other, to engage each other’s bodies. So when men dance together, they “battle.” Recently Jordan Lennie and Joseph Mercier took one of the queerest texts in all of dance history – The Rite of Spring – and used it to score an experiment in the literalization of the violence embedded into the choreography of men’s relationships to each other’s bodies. Written by Igor Stravinsky for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, the balletic performance of The Rite of Spring sparked “near riots” as audience members to the 1913 Paris debut responded so forcefully to just about everything about the event (the music, the choreography, the set, the whole idea of it) that some people actually threw fists at each other. Mercier and Lennie dove into six weeks of intensive training with MMA coach James Duncalf for this performance: they straight-up fought each other across the four sections of The Rite of Spring, escalating the intensity of the fight with each “act.” You can watch excerpts of the performance here

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