New take on the ancient rite of spring

Leading Chinese choreographer Yang Liping's reinterpretation of "Rite of Spring" will world premiere in Shanghai next month as part of the 20th Shanghai International Arts Festival

Leading Chinese choreographer Yang Liping’s latest modern dance interpretation “Rite of Spring” will world premiere at the Shanghai International Dance Center next month as part of the 20th Shanghai International Arts Festival.

The original version was a ballet and orchestral concert by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Since its first performance in 1913 in Paris, the avant-garde work has inspired many choreographers.

This time, Yang offers a new interpretation of the Western classic through Eastern philosophy, wisdom and aesthetics.

The previous versions of “Rite of Spring” depict a young girl who is chosen as a sacrificial victim and dances herself to death, which is part of primitive rituals celebrating the advent of spring.

But Yang’s version is influenced by the belief in the cyclicity of life and death.

“I am from Bai ethnic group,” says Yang. “In our culture, we have a similar ritual but have different attitudes towards it. The West expresses the ritual through a terrified, ambivalent and hesitant way. But we Bai women have a distinct understanding. We volunteer to sacrifice ourselves for the common good.”

Yang’s “Rite of Spring” is infused with the Tibetan elements featuring a woman who sacrifices, awakes and is reborn, a priest who is regarded as an oppressor, a lion symbolizing authority, old world and inviolable rules, and a peacock which is a metaphor for hope and nirvana. The peacock has become Yang’s personal physical embodiment throughout her career.

The performance intends to create an abstract universe where space, time and life coexist in the transient sense of a cycle.

During a two-year preparation, Yang has assembled an array of experienced creatives and crew from China, Holland, Australia, Italy and Britain — including Chinese art director and winner of the 2000 Oscar for Best Art Direction and Costume Design Timmy Yip.

Commissioned by Sadler’s Wells London and the Shanghai International Arts Festival, it will also be staged next August as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Performance details

Date: October 19-21, 7:30 pm

Tickets: 180-1280 yuan

Tel: 5299-0372

Venue: Shanghai International Dance Center

Address: 1650 Hongqiao Rd

New take on the ancient rite of spring
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