English National Ballet’s interpretation of Pina Bausch’s version is a relentless fertility rite leading to the death of a sacrificial victim. The Chinese choreographer Yang Liping’s version opts for an infusion of Eastern mysticism. London-born Seeta Patel‘s Bharatanatyam treatment is as forceful as Bausch's, but also responds elegantly to the nuances of Stravinsky’s score. The mood shifts from palpable excitement to bleakness as the fate of The Chosen One is fully realised.
The first section is bright and vibrant, the choreography full of energetic leaps and jumps that depict a game in which the six dancers alternate between the chasing and being chased. They are lively, passionate and graceful. Patel employs a recurring motif of a quivering hand, interspersed with other gestures and steps specific to the Bharatanatyam dance style she is known for, that evoke this early sense of exhilaration and anticipation.
The driving pulse of the music is skilfully combined with intricate, precise footwork and the grandeur of the slow, deliberate upper body movements. Stravinsky’s score demands a savage physicality, but Patel’s dancers, while still commanding, carry an elegance in their upright bodies, never appearing displaced or frantic. Their thunderous foot-stamps respond to the ebb and flow of the music.
Stravinsky’s score is split by a short interlude for an attractively staged dream sequence to Roopa Mahadevan’s sensitive vocals. Warren Letton’s lighting elicits warmth and tranquility while the dancers surround The Chosen One, as if to pay their respects and accept his fate. The quick transition from urgent breathlessness to a peaceful, ethereal calm is a well executed original twist. If for nothing else, the audience need five minutes' rest and sit back from the edge of their seats.
On returning to Stravinsky’s music, Seeta Patel’s choreography is more turbulent and troubled as the sacrificial victim stands centre stage. The hands of the surrounding dancers still flutter at their chests as previously, but anticipation is now replaced by a tangible sense of fear.
Jason Cheriyan’s androgynous costumes in nude and earthy pink floaty materials are well suited to the drama and provide colour to the plain backdrop. Sooraj Subramaniam’s Chosen One is distant and other-wordly. Dressed in a crimson red cloak with hanging streams of material that spread out across the stage, he stands and gazes outwards. As the light fades, Subramaniam slowly turns and the material wraps around his body until he is completely encased in it and darkness falls.
The evening is set up in fine style with Seeta Patel’s Dance Dialogues, a brief but satisfying fusion of Bharatanatyam and contemporary styles by a troupe of emerging dancers. Celine Lepicard’s recital of Bach’s cello suite 1, soothes the audience nicely before the spectacle of the main event.
In her The Rite of Spring, Seeta Patel has created a work of such impact and ambition, it transcends the intimate setting of The Place. It’s further enhanced by committed and powerful performances from the ensemble of dancers (Ash Mukherjee, Indu Panday, Kamala Devam, Moritz Zavan, Sarah Gasser and Sooraj Subramaniam).
Tackling a classic takes great bravery, but in her commanding, utterly convincing interpretation Patel has created a must-see epic.
Seeta Patel’s The Rite of Spring is sponsored by the Bagri Foundation and co-commissioned by The Place, Sadler’s Wells and Akademi.
|Seeta Patel, The Rite of Spring Review
|The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London, WC1H 9PY | MAP
17 May 19 – 18 May 19, 19:30 Dur.: 70 mins no interval
|£17 (concessions £13)
|Click here to book via The Place