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Modernization, urbanization, globalization: nothing can be done about it: the life of social communities is always based on rites and rituals, far beyond religious matters. Just take a look at the Dance Biennial Parade in Lyon. The popular enthusiasm that it generated when it was created in 1996 convinced the organizers that it was essential to make this one of the highlights of each edition, a sort of civic ritual that would offer performers, amateur dancers and citizens of the Lyon agglomeration the opportunity to congregate in the centre of the city.
Generation - Madhavi Mudgal
In sacred dances, like for example in Odissi, one of the classical Indian styles, the greeting ritual is used to mark the transition between phases of everyday lifetime and that of dance. The dancer carries this out before and after every lesson, every rehearsal and every performance. It also boosts the performer’s mental and corporal availability.
Desa Kela Patra - Sebatu Bali
On the island of Bali, most of the dances relate episodes form the Ramayana, one of the great sacred Hindu texts. A wide range of rituals that ensure the sacred aspect of the celebration must be put into play to embody gods and goddesses, kings and other mythological figures. A set of codes relating to the arrangement of the space and the orchestra, evolve from this. The rituals that structure certain dances in Bali and in India address a function: to organize reality in such a way so it becomes intelligible. The etymology of the word “ritual” refers, moreover, to an idea of order. Rites are used, as such, to put order into disorder, to give meaning to the accidental and the incomprehensible in life.
Ebhofolo - Vincent Mantsoe
Rituals can also be used for creations and reinterpretations. The choreographic writing of the South African, Vincent Mantsoe, blends elements drawn from healing rituals, which he was initiated in, with movements from Zulu and Xhosa dances, from Tai Chi and from modern-day western techniques.
Eye of the Heaven et Chum, Ku Shinmyung - Kim Maeja
Kim Maeja uses a similar approach. Her gestural vocabulary is inspired by Buddhist ceremonies and Korean folk dances and shamanic dances.
Hibiki et Kagemi - Sankaï Juku et Hymne aux fleurs qui passent - Legend Lin Dance Theater
The states of the body in which the Japanese Sankai Juku dancers and the Taiwanese Legend Lin dancers move are the result of intense work on body awareness, on breathing, on releasing and on the relationship with gravity. As such, the performers need a long period of preparation, which is deemed a ritual. They meditate, cover their bodies with a white ointment which, in turn, characterizes this transformation of the being.
b.c. janvier 1545, fontainebleau - Christian Rizzo
Through the use of symbolic objects and elements, certain contemporary choreographers also make their performances look like ritual cérémonies.,In b.c. janvier 1545 by Christian Rizzo, the myriad of candles that are placed on the black console conjures up the lighting of a church.
Birds with Skymirrors - Lemi Ponifacio
The scenography and the play on light also contribute to centre staging a religious atmosphere, like in Birds with Skymirrors, by the Samoan Lemi Bonifacio. It is also by invoking slow, grave gestures, founded on solemnity that the dancer becomes a celebrant.
Swan Lake, mort du cygne - Raimund Hoghe
Last but not least, the very dramaturgy of the performance and the scenic configuration reproduce schemas that are specific to rituals. Raimund Hoghe begins his performances with a circular promenade, that he undertakes himself. Through this inaugural movement, he consecrates the dance space and illustrates that here, something is going to take place, in front of the audience.
Le sacre du printemps - Heddy Maalem
Back in 1959, the young Maurice Béjart rose to the challenge to create a ballet to this frighteningly complex music. This time round, it was a triumph. Since then, a great many choreographers have produced their “version”. Because the work sets the artist in front of existential questioning: the role of the human being in the universe and in the social community. Through this the Sacre (Rite) became, as such, a rite of passage through which the choreographer declares his maturity. Heddy Maalem did just this in 2005, which was qualified as “African Rite”, in particular as a result of the West African origin of the fourteen performers. Marked by the urban chaos of the Nigerian capital, where he had resided, the choreographer built on Stravinsky’s music to reveal the violence of the world, and the interweaving of life and death. The theme of copulation, also arrived on the scene. Men and women meet and copulate passionately.
Le sacre du printemps - Maryse Delente
As for Maryse Delente, she relates the awakening of women to sexuality, the explosion of an unknown desire, both exhilarating and frightening for these young women who waver between innocence and perversity.
In more depth
DOUGLAS, Mary, GUERIN, Anne (trad.). De la souillure : Essais sur les notions de pollution et de tabou [Purity and danger]. Paris : F. Maspero, 1971. 1934 p. (Bibliothèque d’anthropologie).
SEGALEN, Martine. Rites et rituels contemporains. Paris : Nathan, 1998. 128 p. (Sciences sociales).
STRAVINSKI, Igor. Chroniques de ma vie (1882-1935). Paris : Denoël-Gonthier, 1974. 240 p.
DOUGLAS, Mary. « La ritualisation du quotidien », in Ethnologie Française, XXVI, 2, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 1996, p. 597-604.
Anne Décoret-Ahiha is an anthropologist of dance, doctor of Paris 8 University. Speaker, trainer and consultant, she develops proposals around dance as an educational resource and designs participatory processes mobilizing corporeality. She animates the "Warming up of the spectator" of the Maison de la danse.
Charles Picq, Anne Décoret Ahiha
Text and bibliography selection
Anne Décoret Ahiha
Maison de la Danse
The "Rituals" Parcours was launched thanks the support of General Secretariat of Ministries and Coordination of Cultural Policies for Innovation.