The Rite of Spring

The catalyst of the work is the Cailleach, a hag, and under her witchy spell the men start to revert to an atavistic ritual world. They herd into a pack, wielding knives against the weakest and oldest, and their menace turns murderous as they put on dogs’ heads to hunt down the three young women on stage. With their rabid masks and their snuffling, predatory moves, these dog-men are terrifying… Keegan-Dolan deviates startlingly from Stravinsky… The most powerful force in the world is finally shown to be female. This is a bold flipping of tradition, but the pay-off is worth it.

Judith Mackrell, The Guardian ★★★★ Full Text

Few choreographers are a match for Stravinksy’s The Rite of Spring… Nearly 200 have tried and the latest is Michael Keegan-Dolan whose Fabulous Beast company premiered his potent new version last weekend … an unexpectedly redemptive twist to the usual murderous climax.

Louise Levene, Sunday Telegraph ★★★★★ Full Text

The deployment of animal heads — hares for the three women and hounds for the men — emphasise the predatory aspect of the natural world; while the gender transition as the men remove their clothes and put on dresses before The Chosen One… dances in a death frenzy suggests female empowerment that invokes the earth goddess Gaia. It reaches deep into Stravinsky’s music and ferrets around in the entrails to pull out raw, bleeding chunks of movement. An evening of pure theatrical voodoo. Get strong and go.

Neil Norman, Daily Express Full Text

Of the many danced Rites I have seen, few remain vivid in memory: Kenneth MacMillan’s teeming vision of tribal sacrifice in a scorched desert of red earth, Pina Bausch’s post-apocalyptic gender face-off… Now, to join that list, comes Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Rite for his Irish-based company Fabulous Beast… Keegan-Dolan is a close listener, so his ideas spring directly from Stravinsky’s… Here lies the twist in Keegan-Dolan’s telling: the eventual ending of winter, and the warming of the earth, is a process of feminisation. In the 1913 original of this work, the same was achieved through a death. In this startling, cathartic rewrite for the 21st century, it is life that wins out.

Jenny Gilbert, Independent on Sunday Full Text

Review of Reviews: Average of 7/10

, The Guardian Full Text

Michael Keegan-Dolan’s savage and inspired rewrite of Stravinsky is… as exhilarating as it is harrowing… Presiding over all is Olwen Fouéré’s compelling queen of winter, a divine hag dressed in black and smoking a cigarette to Stravinsky. That this is a patriarchal community is never in doubt. The stage pulses with the testosterone energy of an 18-strong male gang (members of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre). Moving in unison, they present an ensemble of searing intensity, despite the simplicity of Keegan-Dolan’s punchy, tight-knit choreography, while the music’s churning rhythms are vibrantly realised… The sacrificial dance is performed — in a state of exaltation, but it plays out against all expectation. In a stunning finale, the arrival of spring turns out to be a victory in more ways than one.

Debra Craine, The Times ★★★★★ Full Text

Keegan-Dolan loves playing both with and against the kinetic rhythmic energy of the music. But there is plenty here in the dying throes of yet another winter of discontent to tilt at convention and challenge traditional perceptions about the nature of masculinity. You’ll never look at a bull terrier in quite the same way again. Quite an evening.

Edward Seckerson, The Independent ★★★★★ Full Text

Of the several accounts of The Rite of Spring that I have sat through, three have, for me, realised Stravinsky’s vision of pagan ritual: Kenneth MacMillan, Pina Bausch, Leonid Massine. They were utterly different but unfailing in their response to the music. Let me now add a fourth, as powerful as these, by Michael Keegan-Dolan for his Fabulous Beast troupe… Movement is demotic in its stampings and circlings, yet acquires sacramental dignity. The power of Keegan-Dolan’s response lies in this simplicity: in the complexities of Stravinsky’s score he has discerned an elemental directness. His artists give thrillingly frank and unassuming performances, their strength that of the music. Here is a Rite whose modernity is utterly remote from the prehistory that inspired Stravinsky, yet it knows that there are race memories within us, potent and cathartic. 

Clement Crisp, Financial Times ★★★★★ Full Text

[The] choreography doesn’t come close to catching the thundering terror of the music… 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 Full Text

Simply drivel... Rarely have I seen anything so silly or inept... I kept wondering what Father Ted would have made of it all.

Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph Full Text

This staging, choreographed by Michael Keegan-Dolan of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre, would scarcely have raised a bourgeois eyebrow. What became of the music, usually so lacerating and alive? With all the dreariness on stage, you quite forgot this was one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. Neither Gardner nor the orchestra sounded happy. The damp squib ending arrived not a moment too soon.

Fiona Maddocks, The Observer Full Text

A totally naff new look at Stravinsky's ballet about savage pagan rites… Indeed, the whole thing is a dramatic and choreographic mess. An opportunity wasted.

David Gillard, The Daily Mail Full Text

Keegan-Dolan has shown us much more interesting work before. Here, there are swamping gimmicks, with insufficient dance interest or power to match Stravinsky’s rhythmic savagery.

David Dougill, The Sunday Times Full Text

Michael Keegan-Dolan's Rite of Spring, set in rural Ireland, has divided audiences and critics. As an admirer of his work I wanted to like it, and initially was sure that I was going to. I loved the falling snow, the cups of tea, the tweed-capped ancients with their cardboard boxes... [but] the sight of 18 heavily bearded men laboriously climbing out of their underpants is not life-affirming. The choreography which stitches the action together is thin stuff, and seriously short-changes Stravinsky’s score.

Luke Jennings, The Observer Full Text