REVIEW ‌ Charleston Ballet’s Rite of Spring Under the Angel Oak 

Dirty Dancing

Driving to Johns Island and seeing the Charleston Ballet dance in front of the majestic Angel Oak to the live music of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra at 6 p.m. without mosquitoes is a true Charleston appreciation activity. With all the out-of-town big dog artists, it was nice to see the performance well-attended as a large group came out to enjoy Charleston’s own.

The 1,400 year old Oak is the perfect setting for the Jill Eathorne-Bahr’s interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, as the dancers crawl through its soil covered roots and slither along its moss adorned branches. Granted they did add their own dirt to the ‘stage’ space, but it fit right in. As the haunting first sounds of Stravinsky’s music that caused such a stir in 1912 when the Ballet Russe fist danced to it, Janet V. Meister as the Matriarch sensuously awakens. She is soon joined by her female tribe and they move through their ritual dance of percussive and sharp movement which shows their strength and unity. The costumes concerned me and were a distraction — funny when trying to appear nude without actually being it is a difficult task.

The male figure aptly danced by Mathew McKinney emerges from the dirt and is joined by others. They move in angular and athletic ways and are a strong ensemble in their android style. From the union of the two counterparts the chosen one is born, and from there the story unfolds as jealousy rises when father and daughter become enamored in a most inappropriate way. I guess the families didn’t get the message that this was not a kid-friendly event. Mother and tribe turn against daughter and the tragic ending ensues. It is difficult not to think about female mud wrestling as the ladies get angrier and filthy.

Jessica Roan dramatically assumes her role and it is one of her most convincing performances. Meister’s severity never wavers and she too expresses her character with the conviction the piece needs. The work builds in intensity along with the score which is played beautifully by the CSO. At the dramatic finish the audience is left wanting more from both talented groups of dancers and musicians. As Spoleto burnout sets in this was a refreshing highpoint and maybe it will inspire more theatre going for tomorrow.


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