The Rite of Spring

Reviewer’s Rating

Seeta Patel Dance has brought an exciting double bill to Sadler’s Wells. Opening with a solo performance that is choreographed and performed by Seeta Patel, the rhythmic and mesmerising Bharatanatyam dance starts to grow. This South Indian classical dance form defines the evening, moving from the more traditional solo in the first half, to a large ensemble piece in the second with The Rite of Spring.

Haunting music builds slowly as lights pierce the stage. Finally, out of the darkness, we see three musicians on raised platforms behind a gauze. Projections paint themselves across the fabric: there are planets, stars, a beating life force appearing out of the universe, trees, branches, foliage, colourful flowers and vines.

Patel’s movement becomes part of the music and the light, a slow controlled dance that matches the pulse and breath of the beat. Much of this performance takes place low to the ground or is fairly static to one central spot on the stage, which can cause issues for any audience member with a restricted view.

The Rite of Spring, choreographed by Seeta Patel to the iconic Stravinsky score, is a strangely beautiful version of this well-known ballet. The clashing anger and energy of the Nijinsky original has vanished – this certainly won’t cause a riot – and in its place is harmony and ritual with a softness that seems an ode to nature and the cycles of life and death.

The Bharatanatyam dance form merges effortlessly into the story and the musical score. Bold lines of the arms and torso contrast with expressive hands and feet, and the ensemble move as though bound together as one living organism. An interlude part way through is punctuated with a moving vocal performance, the Chosen One (a man who seems more deity than sacrificial innocent in this version of The Rite of Spring) awakening into his role. And then the familiar music begins again, the piece building to a thrilling climax.

The costumes are stunning: neutral and earthy coloured silk tunics blend beautifully, rippling fabrics complementing the rise and fall of the dancers’ bodies. Long strands of red silk spread across the stage from the chest of the Chosen One, reminding us of veins or roots winding their way back into the earth.

It’s all highly symbolic and thoughtfully crafted choreography. Every line of the eye, every hand movement, angle of the body, beat of the feet, is invested with meaning.

Seeta Patel Dance has created a successful performance, bringing the classical Bharatanatyam dance to this iconic Stravinsky score. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kirill Karabits, is superb, and the whole production feels purposeful, building a bridge between Western music and Indian dance.