Yang Liping – Rite of Spring at Sadler’s Wells
Igor Stravinsky’s classic Rite of Spring is magnificently reinterpreted by renowned Chinese legend Yang Liping – and the Peacock Contemporary Dance Company – in an Eastern and philosophically inspired production of the modern ballet. Breathtakingly beautiful, poignant and innovative, the show brilliantly merges the Russian classic with Buddhism, Tibetan culture and Yunnan dance.
Representing the cycles of life, Liping’s version employs animals as symbols of power, hope and sacrifice. Movement is often frenzied and electrifying, and otherwise spectacularly sensual, undulating and flowing like growing grass, blooming flowers and trees bending and swaying in the wind. An aura of fusion with nature and an honouring of the environment pervade. A Taoist connection to the earth imbues Stravinsky’s tale of pagan ritual with a spirit of love and serene ecstasy. Visually, the work is an intriguing masterpiece of painterly harmony and grace, while also surprising, inventive, unique and cutting edge.
Huge open eyes painted on the closed lids of meditating dancers introduce the piece. 15 performers are featured in three acts: Stravinsky’s music accompanies two, while the finale is infused with Tibetan-themed melody.
While this work usually includes the sacrifice of a young virgin as a ritual of spring, Yang includes reincarnation after death: fear and trepidation are followed by power in self-immolation, and finally renewal, understanding and joy in rebirth. Combined are Eastern traditions of solidarity with the life cycle and symbolic quasi-Christ-like resurrection.
The direction and choreography are excellent and the dancers are first-rate. The gorgeous, flamboyant costumes and make-up are key elements in this ballet – evoking Chinese opera and Tibetan theatre, and creating an atmosphere of dreamlike fantasy and otherworldly imagining. Superb stage design is by Tim Yip (Oscar-winner for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, among others). Original new music by He Xuntian – in the first and third acts – is dramatically haunting and unique.
A distinctive and noteworthy incarnation of Stravinsky’s masterwork, Liping’s fascinating, vibrant and lovely Rite of Spring is artistically compelling, thought-provoking, and strikingly hopeful and uplifting.
Photo: Li Yijan
Rite of Spring is at Sadler’s Wells from 9th until 11th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Rite of Spring here: