The Rite of Spring / Petrushka

The Rite of Spring/Petrushka
Lyndsey Winship
Sadler's Wells

This year's centenary of The Rite of Spring brings a welcome rash of revivals and reinterpretations addressing Stravinsky's mightiest of dance scores. Ahead of the game, choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan has already been there, done that. He made his Rite in 2009 but has reworked it for this anniversary.

This new Rite is notably different to his first version in two ways: firstly the orchestral score is replaced by the piano duet arrangement, played by Serbian sisters Lidija and Sanja Bizjak. The percussive pounding of the piano onstage is powerful but you do lose some of the depth, texture and colour of this incredibly beautiful music.

The second change is the casting. Instead of a stageful of men dominating a few women, the genders are evened out. It makes it a completely different piece, no longer drowned in testosterone; it’s less about sexism and sexual violence, more a story of power, transformation and ritual (from cups of tea to post-sex cigarettes). What this Rite loses in brute impact it gains in clarity and subtlety.

The show is a Stravinsky double bill, with Keegan-Dolan’s brand new rewrite of Petrushka. He has done away with the story — no sad puppets here — and gone for a musical response that provides a counterpoint to his Rite of Spring. Where the Rite is earth, this is heaven, with the “chosen one” of the sacrificial myth ascending to the next life. Where the first half was darkness, the second offers light, with a blank white stage and white-clad dancers. Where the Rite is a tale of singling out, this feels more like a coming together.

The elemental movement comes in bold strokes and swirling gusts, with percussive feet against playful melodies (again, the Bizjak sisters accompany on piano, and this time it feels like nothing is missing). Keegan-Dolan has paid close attention to the score but it doesn’t read like an exercise. He takes a broader view, using the weight of unison dancing to match the hands-full of notes on the piano and the whacking great rhythms.

You could be swamped by the power of Stravinsky’s music (never mind the myth that surrounds it) but Keegan-Dolan’s dance has the earthy clout and rhythmic nous to make it work.

Lyndsey Winship, London Evening Standard ★★★★

Original article