Seeta Patel Dance – The Rite of Spring ★★★★ Sadler's Wells Theatre | March 13 - 14, 2023


Seeta Patel's The Rite of Spring is an extraordinary marriage of the classical South Indian dance form of bharatanatyam with Stravinsky's iconic work. Patel breathes new life into the well-known piece, while also offering a fascinating insight into the similarity and difference of Indian and western dance cultures. In the first half of the programme, Patel performs a solo bharatanatyam work, Shree, which introduces the vocabulary of the Indian dance form and presents a contrasting interpretation of the arrival of spring to the one we shall see later. Wayne Sables' evocative video projections create the darkness of a winter which gradually recedes as vocals, drums and finally a flute evoke the coming of the earth's rebirth. Patel emerges in bright spring colours and, using the geometric movements of the South Indian dance plus mime, she creates a gentle and joyous celebration of the seasonal cycle. Its mystery is conveyed in Samyukta Ranganathan’s haunting vocals, its energy in Prathap Ramachandran's insistent drum beat, and Vijay Venkat’s flute captures all the wonder of a world reborn. This interpretation of the natural progression stands in stark contrast to the energy released in The Rite of Spring. In the second part of the programme, working with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Patel uses the bharatanatyam dance form, usually performed as a solo, to produce an ensemble piece that wonderfully exposes and reconsiders the dark essence of the Stravinsky work. In this version, the Chosen One is a male dancer, although the costuming is androgynous. The preparation and sacrifice that are required to unleash the seasonal rebirth is quite brilliantly captured, and the dramatic and ecstatic spirit of the original is thrillingly reincarnated. Seeta Patel and her dance company prove to be superlative guides into the world of Indian dance and fascinating interpreters of Stravinsky's masterpiece.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Foteini Christofilopoulou.

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