2019 House Programs Rite of Spring | Page 7

Circle of life Yang Liping’s new production creates a distinctively Chinese Rite of Spring. She tells David Jays about willing sacrifice and reincarnation. Yang Liping describes the score of The Rite of Spring as “a series of codes that Stravinsky leaves for future generations of dancers.” The Chinese choreographer is the latest in a long line of dance artists to harness the elemental surge of this incendiary masterpiece from 1913. Nijinsky’s original version of The Rite has been lost, despite attempts to reconstruct it. There have since been well over 200 dance versions of the piece, from Kenneth MacMillan’s luridly- painted tribe to Michael Clark’s provocative take, which ends with a bare-breasted woman in a Hitler moustache; not to mention the dinosaurs battling it out in Disney’s Fantasia. Of all these countless versions, perhaps the one which most viscerally captures Stravinsky’s elemental terror is that by Pina Bausch (1975), danced at Sadler’s Wells by her own company and more recently by English National Ballet. It was Bausch’s version that resonated with Yang and inspired her to embark on her own creation. But was she intimidated by following in Bausch’s footsteps? “I like Bausch’s Rite so much,” she admits. “But in creation, the important thing is your own belief in what you want to say to the audience. What is imperative for an artist is to communicate her own ideas and understanding of life through this extraordinary music and creation.” Stravinksy’s score came late to China. It was not heard live there until 1982, at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities in Beijing, where the orchestral forces included two members from the People’s Liberation Army playing the high tuba parts. Young musicians flocked to hear the iconic work. “We were all there to listen to the live performance of The Rite,” said the composer Guo Winjing. “It was very different from what we heard on cassette tapes in those days. The difference was very profound for us as composers, and the live performance opened us to a new aura of orchestration and dynamics.”