The Rite of Spring/Petrushka
The music is here performed by Lidija and Sanja Bizjak in the four-handed piano arrangement: something that, combined with a reduced cast of 12, highlights the material's brutality. The dourly dressed dancers seem to exist at emotionalsubsistence level, bodies hunched against falling snow. When their drumming, earthbound movements start to release an atavistic energy, it is not tribal magic that ensues, but rape and hare-coursing (Keegan-Dolan's animal imagery is always scarily potent). Even when they join together for the dance of death and rebirth, there is only a cautious release of energy.
The theme of regeneration is, however, carried forward in Keegan-Dolan's Petrushka, which in the choreographer's imagination continues the journey from the Earth towards the light. The stage is startlingly, uniformly white, and there is even a special lightness in the music, as the piano arrangement – again played by the Bizjaks – emphasises the piece's fairground lilt. In narrative terms, there are only vestiges of the 1911 ballet. Dancer Rachel Poirier smears white clowns'-paint on her face, and there are traces of the Moor and the Ballerina in a duet. But Keegan-Dolan's wheeling, skittering choreography is an abstract force, untethering the dancers from their personalities and ordinary life.
Technical problems on opening night made it hard to judge the exact power of this metaphor. But even if some of the dance material looks overstretched, there's no doubting the spell of Keegan-Dolan's imagination. As Poirier finally climbs a ladder skywards, it is as though an apotheosis beckons. And when the snow starts to fall, it feels like a benediction.
Judith Mackrell, The Guardian ★★★★