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The Rite of Spring/Petrushka, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells | reviews, news & interviews

The Rite of Spring/Petrushka, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells

The Rite of Spring/Petrushka, Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, Sadler's Wells

A contemporary choreographer takes a fresh look at two Stravinsky classics

Hare and hounds: pack mentality wins outImages: Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre

In String of Rites, Sadler’s Wells has commissioned three works as a tribute to Vaslav Nijinsky’s 1913 Le sacre du printemps. It opened with the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre’s double bill, The Rite of Spring and Petrushka. Both scores are by Igor Stravinsky, created for the original choreography by Nijinsky and Michel Fokine respectively. 

keegan dolan rite menMichael Keegan-Dolan’s Rite is dark, both visually and in emotion, and stems from the same concept as Nijinsky’s - pack mentality and what fate this can project onto the "chosen one". But Dolan’s look is visually different. The 10 dancers are initially dressed as if they're the cast of The Archers, all wax jackets, flat caps and tweed, suggesting a community of sorts from the outset.

Watching over, if not controlling them, is a female character with startlingly long white hair, and clad in black, who stays on the outskirts until a definitive action or decision needs to be made. An elderly gentleman also hovers, until he's set upon by the pack (pictured left).

keegan dolan riteFour attacks take place, which all follow a similar pattern that seems inspired by paranoia. When the mob eventually make their choice they assail the victim, undress them and physically shove them around the space. Dolan fortifies the community approach through his movement. Never do the dancers launch into some obviously recognisable contemporary movement phrase. Instead they communicate the layered rhythms of Stravinsky's infamous score through basic pedestrian movement; hops, skips, heavy-footed walks.

When the final attack has been made the chosen girl embodies the music through a type of Bharatanatyam movement as the attackers surround her in their chintz dresses like a crazed pack of dervishes (pictured above). My only reservation about the work's power is the sometimes excessive visual bombardment. Snow, dirt, knives, boxes, floral dresses and giant animal heads can feel overbearing all at once.

The accessibility of the dance transcends the everyday, becoming a kind of meditative experience

Petrushka offers a different environment altogether. From the moment the white set appears, a less morbid feel prevails. Keegan-Dolan presents the three main characters from the original work in an intelligently subtle way, so if you aren’t aware of the 1911 production, or are but don’t want to reference it, you don’t have to. He communicates the loneliness of Petrushka well, but doesn’t ram it down your throat, opting rather for an internal sense of emotion that filters through the movement of different dancers.

The movement language is not dissimilar to that of Rite, but as the concept is less evident the dance is able to shine through. He makes movement accessible through using daily actions: rise, fall, twist, turn, swing etc. But when paired with Stravinsky’s dynamism, and the dancers’ formidable coordination, it transcends the everyday, becoming a kind of meditative experience for both themselves and the observer. All of the dancers do his work more than proud, and the scores are played in piano version with nimble precision and tasteful nuance by Lidija and Sanja Bizjak. Overall, Fabulous Beast more than warrant their fabulous name.

The 10 dancers are initially dressed as if they're the cast of 'The Archers', all wax jackets, flat caps and tweed


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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