Rite of Spring is an innovative take on the 1913 avant-garde ballet. Backed by Igor Stravinsky’s colossal score, that music alone is sure to thrill you to bone. Seeta Patel has created a highly inventive take on this ballet by incorporating the traditional Indian dance Bharatanatyam with contemporary dance. It’s a clever piece that is fascinating to see.
It starts with a snippet of Patel’s work in progress Dance Dialogues. It’s a short, seven minute section, in which the aim is to introduce two genres of dance, contemporary and Bharatanatyam, to younger performers. The dancers precision and accuracy is astounding, as is their faultless technique. The music is simultaneously coupled with the dancers movements, and they are so in sync it is like clockwork.
We are then treated to a musical interlude from Celine Lepicard with her rendition of the Bach Cello Suite 1. It is meticulously played as we watch Lepicard’s nimble fingers scurry up and down her cello. At times, however, there are slight squeaks heard from the cello that are jarring to hear amongst the smooth sound. But her performance of such a difficult piece is admirable, and Lepicard holds the stage well.
After these short pieces, the main event begins with Patel’s Rite of Spring. Stravinsky’s dramatic score makes for a shocking start, then matched by the dancers’ strong demeanour. The start is fast paced and filled with intricate details that are almost too fast for the eye to see. The second half then slows so we can appreciate the quality of the dancers’ movements more. Both parts have their merit however, and are a great contrast to see in one evening.
Patel has adapted the old score well, by replicating the music’s trills in the traditional hand movements in Indian dance. She has further developed this by translating the strong dramatic chords as foot stamps, which are also a key feature of Bharatanatyam dance. These interpretations of Stravinsky’s score are charming and fantastic to watch. However, the drama of Stravinsky’s score is worthy of a 1000 people battling on stage, and this isn’t quite matched by the six dancers Patel has. At times when the music is frantically ploughing through a full orchestra of sound, the dancers are doing slow, detailed movements that are very subtle. While this is beautiful to watch, it doesn’t quite feel in keeping with the noise that is surrounding the audience, and something about seeing this is quite unharmonious.
The dancers themselves are impeccable as they demonstrate extreme agility and strength in both styles of dance. Bharatanatyam is an extremely strenuous style of dance and the dancers execute this beautifully as they jump onto their demi-pointe and remain there with complete balance.
Overall, Patel has created an authentic dance piece that is truly fresh and original. Her aim to bring Bharatanatyam into a modern age alongside contemporary dance is undoubtedly a success. As someone who has seen little of this style of dance, I find it delightfully refreshing and very accessible for audience members around the world. This is a true achievement in my eyes, and exploring this new medium through an adapted version of Rite of Spring is thoroughly enjoyable.
Rite of Spring played at The Place until 18 May. For more information, visit The Place website.