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Yang Liping: Rite of Spring review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘visually striking but lacking in depth’

A mound of gold Chinese characters spills out across the stage. A Buddhist monk searches through them, focused intently on his task, selecting and gathering.

Yang Liping’s staging of the Rite of Spring takes its inspiration from traditional Tibetan culture. The costumes are richly coloured. There are tall, conical headdresses and trousers that fan out like peacock tails. In the background, a vast, metallic bowl periodically rises and lowers, creating a bridge between the traditional and the modern.

This collage-like aesthetic is one of the work’s biggest problems – ideas emerge only to fade into blackness. They remain unrealised, reliant on the piece’s visual design to hold them together.

When the strains of Stravinsky’s score finally seep into the work, there’s a brief moment of clarity. The dancers gather together to form a many-limbed deity, standing in a line with their arms gently rippling as their fingers, extended with long florescent nails, move searchingly through the air.

Liping seems to be reaching for something beyond the earthiness of Stravinsky’s Rite. Yet, in doing so, she sacrifices the raw, compulsive power that repeatedly draws choreographers to this piece.

There’s a sense of desire and yearning, but it feels a bit contrived. As visually striking as this piece is, it never coheres, remaining a confused and confusing collision of ideas. A scattered piece in which we must seek our own meaning.

Verdict
Visually striking staging of Stravinksy aims for the epic but lacks depth

Production Information

Production
Yang Liping: Rite of Spring
Venue
Sadler's Wells
City
London
Starts
May 9, 2019
Ends
May 11, 2019
Press night
May 9, 2019
Composer
Xuntian He
Director
Tim Yip (visual director)
Choreographer
Yang Liping
Lighting
Fabiana Piccioli
Cast includes
Da Zhu, Xiaofan Feng, Maya Jilan Dong, Yimeng Li, Lu Chengliang, Gloria Ng
Running time
1hr 10mins