The Rite of Spring
London Evening Standard, 09.11.09
Apart from Swan Lake, The Rite of Spring is probably the best-known ballet music there is.
Its radicalism, both musical and choreographic, caused an infamous theatre punch-up at its premiere, although this could have been connived by Serge Diaghilev, who commissioned Stravinsky and Nijinsky to create the piece.
Either way, it’s been irresistible to choreographers ever since who are lured by its glamorous iconoclasm and exotic originators.
Michael Keegan-Dolan is the latest to try his hand, although he is one of the least successful. The problem is that his choreography doesn’t come close to catching the thundering terror of the music. Rite was written as a dance score. There’s no dialogue or lyrics, meaning the choreography is the language that tells the story.
It’s not enough that we know what happens, or that Rae Smith’s designs are cleverly menacing — her hare masks for the women and hound masks for the men are especially scary. Setting the piece in a modern-day but seemingly backward country is also successfully unnerving.
Dance-wise it’s slim pickings. Keegan-Dolan creates vigorous enough moves but his steps carry little narrative detail and the final dance for the Chosen One is a damp squib.
Anyone who’s seen his work at the Barbican will be baffled, as he’s proved himself capable of choreography resonant with meaning.
Sarah Frater, London Evening Standard ★