The Rite of Spring / Petrushka

Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring caused a riot when it was first produced in Paris in 1913. To mark its 100th anniversary, Longford-based dance company Fabulous Beast is presenting it, alongside another Stravinsky work, Petrushka, in an international co-production with London's Sadler's Wells and Galway Arts Festival.

Under choreographer and director Michael Keegan-Dolan, Fabulous Beast has established a reputation for groundbreaking work and there is much here to show why that is justified.

The Rite is based on a Russian folk tale in which a community chooses a girl to encourage the arrival of spring by dancing herself to death. Here the action is relocated to Ireland, where snow falls and the atmosphere is oppressive.

Six male and six female dancers embark on a frenzied series of movements, where rape and other forms of violence prevail. Humans become animals, both pursued and pursuer, in striking scenes with magnificent dogs' heads produced from a series of cardboard boxes.

Actress Olwen Fouéré as a shamanic creature and her sidekick Bill Lengfender preside over matters, but aren't beyond threat as the mob attacks Lengfender.

There is calm amid the frenzy, including a rapid onstage costume change when the dancers don colourful dresses and the audience glimpses physical perfection – beautiful bodies in a dark world.

Petrushka is a brighter affair. Here almost all is light – the costumes, the backdrop, the lighting and eventually the dancers' faces. Puppetmaster Fouéré, presiding over the action from high on a ladder, provides contrast. Like Lengfender, she is clad in black.

Petrushka is Stravinsky's interpretation of another Russian folk tale in which a marionette experiences human emotions. Keegan-Dolan's interpretation of the piece is highly abstract.

Light opening movements are halted by sudden drum beats, when the five couples dancing together are scrutinised by Fouéré's character, who rejects their pairings with humourous motions. They regroup, weaving amongst each other in beautiful formation.

Musically, this production is unusual, as the scores for both dances are performed as a four-handed piano piece rather than with full orchestral accompaniment. Sisters Lidija and Sanja Bizjok play beautifully, but there are times when greater musical impact is required.

There's plenty to admire in this production, but what disappoints in both pieces is a strange lack of passion.

Judy Murphy, Irish Independent

Original article