©Maarten Vanden Abeele
©Maarten Vanden Abeele

International Festival Review: The Rite of Spring

Megan Amato reviews The Rite of Spring at the Edinburgh International Festival.

PINA BAUSCH’S The Rite of Spring returned to Edinburgh on 17 August with pan-African dance company École des Sable, The Pina Bausch Foundation and Sadler’s Wells. Composed by Igor Stravinsky in 1913, Bausch transformed the pagan Russian performance into the stark battle between men and women in 1975.

Before the short and dynamic performance, we were introduced to the calm and beautifully arranged Common ground[s] by Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo. This was an intimate duet that explored the bounds of friendship between two mature women.

As the scene shifted, audiences were treated to the rare chance of witnessing the transformation of the set as barrels and barrels of peat were poured and evenly spread on the stage. Gone is the intimate and dreamy set about connection and familiarity as girls clad in creamy slips began their anxious dance.

This is by no means a comfortable performance – for the dancers nor their audience. Each movement on stage is sharp and deliberate. Each time the dancers’ bodies connect feels like a battle of forces rather than a moment of respite or sentiment. The womens’ movements are jagged and frantic, like a thought that’s stamped out before it connects, while the men are more purposely surefooted. This is the appropriate atmosphere considering one of the girls dancing is to be sacrificed to the bare-chested men herding them.

The sacrificial lamb gives a furious and phenomenal performance. Her movements demonstrating terror and resentment as she prances in the red dress her male counterpoint put on her – said man equally impressive with the incredible stillness and patience of a predator. However, not once dancer was lacking, each performance was powerful and exacting as they pulled their weight – both literally and figuratively – on the stage in a show of force that left the audience breathless.

The Rite of Spring is one of those performances that feels like a rite of passage. Once you have seen this frenetic performance, it will haunt you for the rest of your life. Like an ethereal and eerie fever dream, the intensely laborious ballet kept more than just the dancers on their toes throughout the evening.


Find out more about the show at https://www.eif.co.uk/events/the-rite-of-spring-common-grounds

Read more reviews on Scottish Field’s Fringe pages.

Plus, don’t miss the September issue of Scottish Field magazine.