Rite of Spring

Patrick Centre

Birmingham Hippodrome


In a modern interpretation of Stravinsky’s Parisian ballet, first performed in the 1913, choreographer and director Seeta Patel takes two traditional art forms, a classical concerto and the South Indian dance style Bharatanatym, blending them into a vibrant contemporary piece.

Patel directs with a uniquely stunning vision. With Stravinsky’s century-old score as the influencing factor, there is a presentation of Bharatanatym to add a new dimensions to the story of the beauty found at springtime.

The two art forms are both bold and it is exciting that the two genres would hardly have been seen together before as Patel’s choreography connects South Indian Dance and springtime in Paris.

Through the pulsating dance and the ethereal score, Patel tells us that pure human emotion is a universal connection through his visual story telling. When seeing Stravinsky and Bharatanatyam together there is the sense that we are more closely connected that we think.

The company, made up of Ash Mukherjee, Indu Panday, Kamala Devam, Moritz Zavan, Sarah Gasser and Sooraj Subramaniam, create majestic images with a solid core strength. In many sequences, especially during the first half, the dancers blend together to create the feeling of tranquillity and harmony in conjunction with the natural elements.

Stravinsky’s score always gives a balletic tone and its pulsating Indian dance influence brings is a contrast contrasting, but it is certainly not jarring. Bouncy rhythms are exhibited with the company of six blending as one, with open and light sequences. They move fast and strong, constantly changing with each eb and flow, guided by Stravinsky, yet driven by the strong power of vibrant South Indian dance.

Flowing costumes with bright colours of golds and reds create an otherworldly visual effect, relating to the mythical tones within the story. Of course, the nymph-like characters are light-hearted and playful, but very easily they can turn sinister, showing the depths of the darkness of the forest.

The second part of the piece definitely exhibits darker tones, as the fate of ‘The Chosen One’ grows ever more sombre. A deep red veil which spans the length of the performance space has a precious quality, alluding to scenes of marital duties. The veil is used to cover the head of the Chosen One whilst the others carefully lay it out upon the open space.

With blending bodies and sharp movements, the action becomes jolted, as if the deep red veil should not be present, or that it is not wanted. The veil’s power is that it can consume all who get too close to it.

The production is a wonderful fusion of the art and dance theatre, blending music and dance, old and new. The unlikely pairing of Stravinsky and Bharatanatyam works exceptionally well. It is a great reminder that in 1913, The Rite of Spring was indeed a talking point to modern audiences at the time, and in turn, the particular score now has many interpretations. Patel’s interpretation captures beauty, sensuality and natural human feelings in a creative platform that bring two wonderful, yet totally different genres together.

Elizabeth Halpin


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