MIAF: Rite of Spring

Melbourne Festival Yang Liping Rite of Spring - photo by Yijian LiWhile history seems undecided to how much of a riot occurred when Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring debuted in 1913, there can be no argument that it caused a stir.

Stravinsky’s music has been described as, “Contradicting every rule about what music should be… often deliberately harsh… rhythmically complex… making lavish use of dissonance.” Nijinksy’s choreography had dancers who, “Seemed to jerk rather than dance… strange, stamping movements and awkward poses defying every canon of gracefulness.”

This rendition of Rite of Spring by Yang Liping Contemporary Dance may be sonically and visually less aggravating than the original work on which it’s based, however, it’s no less stunning to listen to or watch.

There are two threads constantly being woven throughout the piece. Even as the audience take their time to enter the space and find their seats, there’s already a lone man working on stage. He slowly carries, drops, then places tiles of words around the stage, slowing enveloping it.

As he does this, most of the ensemble are carefully placed, still yet resplendent in their costumes. Behind them is a spectacular curved section, like a fragment of a metal dish. As the show progresses, it takes on the qualities of a crucible, where different elements mix and move to create something new.

Over the course of the show, this group will move and dance, flinging themselves about the space, even as the available bare stage on which to move gets ever smaller. The storytelling – of sacrifice, change, and ritual – in beautifully rendered, weaving constantly between traditional and more modern elements.

There’s moments of balance and grace, just as there are moments where the ensemble repeats a small movement hard and fast until they slump exhausted filling the space with the sound of gasping for breath. Indeed, by the end, breathtaking would be only one of many well-deserved superlatives used to describe this arresting, gorgeous work.

Rite of Spring
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 3 October 2019 – 8.00pm
Season: 3 – 6 October 2019 (ended)
Information: www.festival.melbourne

Image: Rite of Spring – photo by Yijian Li

Review: David Collins