The Rite of Spring / Petrushka

The Rite of Spring, with score by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Vaslav Nijinksy, premiered in 1913. This vision of human sacrifice in the name of earthly fecundity was a turning point for modernity in dance and music.

Choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan's revisioning edges up to the colourful, chaotic, ecstatic sacrifice of the original, but placed within the bleakness of a contemporary world. Lidija and Sanja Bizjak play Stravinsky's piano score live, and draw out the tension and intricacy of the music without overpowering the onstage action.

Keegan-Dolan retains a sense of brutality, as well as the conflict between female fertility and male power. Gender comes to the fore as both men and women strip naked and don flowered sundresses - this, in stark contrast to the rampant machismo that sees men violently flinging women across the stage early on.

A crone incites the shift to mob mentality as the men pull on eerie canine masks and pull off their pants but, in the end, it is a woman who chains the beasts. This Rite ends with a victory rather than Stravinsky's consuming, ecstatic sacrificial death: a win for civilising forces over base instincts. But what starts strong peters out into a resolution less powerful than the music demands, despite the delightful musicality throughout the work.

Violence gives way to redemption in Petrushka. In both works, Keegan-Dolan highlights the loss of individuality and identity: animal masks in Rite, white painted faces in Petrushka. This is two halves of a whole - a journey from transgression to deliverance.

Jordan Beth Vincent, The Sydney Morning Herald ★★★★

Original article