DANCE, PHYSICAL THEATRE AND CIRCUS.
RITE OF SPRING. EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
August 22nd to 24th 8.00 pm
⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)
This show is a tremendous feast for the eyes, and stunning in its various musical manifestations, together with putting across mind-expanding ideas.
Many people will be familiar with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and with the scandal around the first performance, and with the story within of the sacrificial dance of death of the maiden as a ritual of the coming of spring. A spring which tends to be violent and sudden as the frozen Russian winter retreats.
This version is taking place in a different part of the globe, and within a different tradition. Here we have the Peacock Contemporary Dance Company, directed and choreographed by Yang Liping, and supported by the China National Tourist Office, London. The work is re-imagined through Asian spiritual philosophies, symbols and aesthetics. Here the girl volunteers her body for sacrifice so that her spirit will return purified of the cruelties and nature of humanity.
Before the show starts a dazzling array of potential victims in vivid costumes are on stage. Moving amongst them is a monk who keeps moving bricks throughout. These gold bricks each are in the shape of a Chinese letter or ideogram. On our left there is a huge pile of these golden bricks. Like a rubbish tip, but gold, maybe suggesting that words are both precious and problematic.
Stravinsky’s music is framed by music of a Tibetan flavour before and after. Director Yang is Bai, one of China’s many ethnic minorities, which leads to her bringing in the Tibetan influence on this show.
The seventy five minutes of dance here are intense and very demanding on the cast. I cannot do justice to the great variety of vivid images presented during the show, here, but the vast Lion figure, the male dancer who has great strength and agility and becomes Death, the many women supplicants and the one who dies, all perform brilliantly, and all stay in the mind long afterwards.
This show will remain in the memory long after it is seen, though it may benefit from some reflection and sifting in the mind afterwards. It is a smorgasbord of a show, a sumptuous experience.