Monday, September 16, 2013

The Rite Stuff - Lesson 4 - Setting the Stage

Introduction [10 min]

The set and costumes for The Rite of Spring were designed by Russian philosopher, archeologist, and artist Nicholas Roerich.

Discuss the importance of set and costume design in setting the mood and tone for stage performances such as ballet, theatre, or musicals. How might different costumes or sets change the way a piece is interpreted by the audience? Is there room for directors, set designers, costume designers, and choreographers to re-interpret the performance of the original ballet?

Activity [30 min]

Imagine you are a designer for a modern-day production of The Rite of Spring. Make a sketch for one of the stage backdrops you might use. Then, using a fashion-design underlay, sketch your own costumes for the characters in the ballet. Share your work with the group.


In order to aid with our inspiration, we decided to listen to a recording of The Rite of Spring while we were drawing and designing.

Brayan (age 8) designed a forceful backdrop which shows the sun as well as the dark purple of the evening all in one. His costume designs are rendered in vibrant oranges in bold patterns. The male dancer's headband and the female dancer's braids are primitive in nature, taking inspiration from the revival performance of the ballet we watched previously. Brayan could easily grow up to be a fashion designer--his style is immaculate...and those shoes! Do you see the designer shoes on her feet!?

Luana (age 9) was inspired by the geometric patterns embroidered on the original costumes from the 1913 ballet when she drew her backdrop, a pattern of shining stars, circles, and triangles (inspired by the hats from 1913). The costume design, while paying homage to the "primitive" 1913 costumes, have lines, patterns, and colors all her own. I love the palette she chose. The seemingly opposing colors of the male and female dancers are all brought together in the backdrop. The female dancer's long beaded hair is really something! 

Lucas (age 11) suggested the ballet's theme of sacrifice quite forcefully in the design of his backdrop, which illustrates a giant hand descending from the clouds lowering a helpless maiden toward an infernal sun. His costumes are a study in contrast, with somewhat bulky male clothes in opposition to the tight dress on the female dancer. And I think she might be wearing fishnet stockings. I love their crazy hair!

I also tried my hand at a set and costume design. I was going for a bit of a minimal theme in the backdrop, so layers of spring greens fill the stage. Subtle orange and blue lines play off the predominantly blue and orange costumes of the dancers, which were intended to be minimal in cut and line, but with spring-like accessories. Both male and female dancers have vines around their legs and are wearing laurel crowns to welcome the spring.

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