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The Rite Of Spring

Updated: May 30, 2021

Seeta Patel, reimagined from Stravinsky

The Lowry, Salford

13 May, 2019; 65min, no interval

Kamala Devam and Sooraj Subramaniam in The Rite of Spring. All pics: Joe Armitage
Kamala Devam and Sooraj Subramaniam in The Rite of Spring. All pics: Joe Armitage

It’s evidently open season for The Rite of Spring. This year alone, Stravinsky’s avant garde orchestral masterpiece has seen Chinese and Haitian dance stylings on stage, the latter part of an Opera North double bill also at this venue.

So just when you thought you knew all your rites, along comes this reimagining by award-winning choreographer Seeta Patel, using a ritualistic Indian dance style that enhances the music’s sense of pagan ceremony. It’s a bold cultural crossover of modern Western orchestration and ancient Eastern movement that shares much more than the percussive qualities of both.

Those drum-pounding and foot-stomping sections are an obvious meeting point but there are many more moments in which the angular score and geometric movement create exotic, and occasionally erotic, dance theatre. Particularly during an interlude in which an Indian vocalist allows the six multi-cultural dancers to adopt more recumbent poses.

The final section uses a more contemporary dance style as this Rite moves towards a genuinely thrilling finale. Subdued lighting effects, by Warren Letton, intensify the drama amidst the musical chaos of Stravinsky’s score.

This is the music that, when first performed in 1913, so outraged theatregoers that they were said to have rioted. While sadly there were not enough people in this night’s audience to man any barricades, their enthusiastic response should encourage repeat performances.

To underline the cultural conjunction, the evening also included a Bach cello recital by Heather Bills and a performance of Occupying The Fifth - by four young South Asian dancers - of another original dance piece by Patel, set to the first movement of Beethoven’s ‘Victory V’ Symphony.

A much more playful performance, but another illustration of the things that, culturally at least, can unite communities.


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