Millicent Hodson

Choreographer and Dance Historian

Dr. Millicent Hodson, American choreographer and dance historian, is best known for her research and pioneering reconstruction of the 1913 Nijinsky Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps, one of the defining moments of 20th century culture. This reconstruction work was done in tandem with designer and art historian Kenneth Archer, the leading expert on the work of Nicholas Roerich, the designer of the first production of Sacre. Hodson's and Archer's reconstruction was produced by the Joffrey Ballet in 1987, revised (Chicago, 2001) and has had a significant number of productions since, including the Paris Opera Ballet (1991), the Finnish National Ballet (1994), Companhia Nacional de Mailado, Lisbon (1994), the Zurich Ballet (1995), the Ballet of the Theatro Municipal, Rio (1996), the Rome Opera Ballet (2001), and last April with the Kirov Ballet as part of the 300th Anniversary of the City of St. Petersburg.

Further reconstructions by this team have included the Nijinsky choreographies for Richard Strausss Till Eulenspiegel and Debussys Jeux, and several early ballets of George Balanchine (Cotillian, La Chatte and Le Chant du Rossignol). Recently they have also been working on the creations of Fokine, another icon of Diaghialevs Ballet Russes.

Hodson's path to this career was an interesting and fortuitous one. She did her undergraduate work here at IU Bloomington. For her Ph.D. (1985) at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was a Ford Foundation Fellow, she devised an interdisciplinary program in cinema and spectacle focusing on the Ballet Russes and movement aesthetics in modern Russian Art. Although Hodson had previously trained in ballet and modern dance, principally in the techniques of Cecchetti, Graham, Nikolais, and Cunningham, and had danced in New York and San Francisco, it was during her Berkeley years that she realized it was Vaslav Nijinsky's creative method she wanted to learn.

In 1980 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Hodson a choreography fellowship and a year's residency for the Nijinsky work in London, where she met her collaborator and husband, Kenneth Archer, the English scenic consultant, art historian, and specialist on Nicholas Roerich, designer of the 1913 Sacre. Hodson and Archer worked for seven years to reconstruct the original Neoprimitivist ballet with its now classic score by Igor Stravinsky. This experience provided the apprenticeship she had sought in a highly formalized alternative to classic ballet and modern dance.

Featured in the WNET/BBC film The Search for Nijinsky's Rite of Spring and the ARTE film, Les Printemps du Sacre, Hodson with Archer has often been a guest on radio and television in the US, UK, and Europe. With Archer she often travels abroad to give lectures and workshops. Their lectures are a lively combination of scholarly discourse, multimedia display, and, often, physical demonstration. In 1992 both were recipients of the Nijinsky Medal from Poland.

For each of the ballets Hodson has created or reconstructed with Archer, she has made many drawings that serve as both a means of discovery and a means of documentation and become an important part of the reconstruction process. Her book Nijinskys Crime Against Grade: Reconstruction Score of the original Choreography for Le Sacre du Printemps (Pendragon Press, 1998) has become a standard reference for dancers, artists, and musicologists interested in the phenomenon of the Rite of Spring, in dance reconstruction, and in the 20th century cultural studies in general. A companion volume, Jeux, is being released this year, also by Pendragon Press.

In her first Patten Lecture Dr. Hodson will discuss reconstructing the lost choreographies of Vaslav Nijinsky, the star dancer of Diaghilevs Ballets Russes. Her second lecture, "Balanchine as a Beginner: From the Petrograd Avant-Garde to the Ballets Russes in Paris", will focus on the 20th century master choreographer before his meteoric career in the US. Both lectures will include video excerpts from reconstructions by Hodson and Archer.