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Sasha Waltz and Guests: Sacre review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘savage, powerful and passionate’

Sacre at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Bernd Uhlig Sacre at Sadler's Wells, London. Photo: Bernd Uhlig
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Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring caused a near riot when it opened in Paris in 1913. Today, it is considered a masterpiece. For the 2013 centenary celebrations, choreographer Sasha Waltz created her own tribute, Sacre, which now marks its UK premiere at Sadler’s Wells, alongside Waltz’s interpretations of Claude Debussy’s L’Apres-Midi d’un Faune and Scene d’Amour by Hector Berlioz.

L’Apres-Midi d’un Faune has the atmosphere of a hazy summer afternoon. The movements that ripple through the dancer’s bodies are languid, echoing the calm, floating melody of Debussy’s score. The surprise is the bright block colours of the backdrop and dancers’ unitards.

Scene d’Amour, with music from Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, is a naturalistic portrayal of two young lovers. The seeming simplicity of their romantic, playful movement may be deceptive but it is laid back to the extent that you yearn for a bit more spark.

Sacre provides an explosion. Waltz’s choreography embraces the force of Stravinksy’s music and expels it in desperate, passionate movement. Moments of calm descend, only to explode into savagery as the dancers succumb to their darker impulses in this sacrificial ritual. Sharp, jerky movements, walks on demi-pointe and sudden leaps echo earlier versions, but instead of two tribes, there is rivalry between the men and women, a tension both sexual and violent. Mid-way through the dancers cluster together in a semi-naked, orgiastic mass.

It ends in the traditional dance of the chosen victim to her death. Frantic and exposed in the climactic throes of ritual, her muscular naked body seems a fitting epitome for a piece rooted in the primal instincts of human nature.

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Savage, powerful and passionate. Sacre makes a particular impact in this strong triple bill