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‘The Rite of Spring’ – classical ballet gets bharatanatyam treatment as Seeta Patel goes East and West with radical intent…

‘The Rite of Spring’ – classical ballet gets bharatanatyam treatment as Seeta Patel goes East and West with radical intent…

Choreographer has taken apart form to deliver something fresh and exciting she argues…

CLASSICAL Indian choreographer and dancer Seeta Patel is among the country’s most innovative and daring – and her latest work looks set to have connoisseur and newcomer all abuzz.

Patel has adapted a classical ballet in the form of Igor Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ (1913) into a bharatanatyam composition.

She told “The rhythms in the score are so exuberant and layered, which makes them perfect to work with the bharatanatyam form.

Soorej Subramaniam in ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Joe Armitage

“The work also has such a range of emotions within it and a strong narrative undercurrent that also lends itself to the richness of the bharatanatyam form. This music and bharatanatyam were really made for each other.”

She has just started touring nationally and comes to London for two nights from May 17. Tonight (May 13), this production can be seen at The Lowry in Salford, and then in Birmingham and Bournemouth, before heading to the capital. (See listing below)

Stravinsky’s piece was a sensation when it was first performed and is regarded as the composer’s masterpiece. It has become a classic and has been performed all over the world.

Patel, who is the choreographer and artistic director of the this production, (and not dancing herself) added: “’The Rite of Spring‘ has been choreographed by many different artists and companies over the years. “Nijinsky, Pina Bausch, Maurice Bejart to name a few. But this will be the first time ever it will be done with the Bharatanatyam dance form.”

Six bharatanatyam performers will take to the stage in what is a world first.

“I’m working with six wonderful dancers who come with a wealth of experience.

The Rite of Spring in rehearsal by Simon Richardoson

“They haven’t all worked together before but it’s clear to see they have formed a great bond on and off stage which raises the work to another level.

“I’ve worked with all but one of the dancers in some capacity before, but this is the first time I’ve worked with this specific cast as an ensemble for my own choreography,” she told

While bharatanatyam is widely seen as a classical dance form originating from South India, and many thousands of years old, Patel has a more radical view and believes the art form developed in the 18th and 19th centuries and had far more of a political dimension than is routinely acknowledged.

Her last piece ‘Not Today’s Yesterday’ explored some of these themes and was an unusual and original presentation of bharatanatyam and experiential theatre. (See links below for more). We described it as “subversive” and “radical”.

This latest piece also challenges and disseminates a new form of aesthetic and Patel is seeking out an audience ready to accept new work such as this on its own terms, without looking back too much or being caught in (conservative) ideas of tradition and form.

Taking it on tour to other parts of the country is part of a mission to expose people to the beauty of bharatanatyam, but also make people aware that it can by dynamic, contemporary and as charged as more widely accepted forms of modern dance.

She told acv: “The purpose is to share this exciting work with as many people as possible. I think it has the potential to appeal to a range of people as the music and dance are so powerful. It’s also a great chance to showcase bharatanatyam in a different way.”

Seeta Patel by Stephen Berkeley

She said that the play of East and West shouldn’t just be confined to more contemporary arts forms.

“This incredible, exhilarating score (Stravinksy’s) is truly a wonderful challenge to take on as a choreographer.

“As I’ve been unpicking and deciphering the work, I have been using my understanding of South Indian classical music structures to help bring into focus the wonderful patterns and textural developments Stravinsky uses to create tension, joy, foreboding and more. This really is a work of visceral power and depth, and seamlessly compliments the beauty of bharatanatyam.

“We’ve also played with lighting design and makeup effects and our two costume designers, who live in Bangalore (Bengaluru), have inspired the look of the production with their beautiful textures.”

Patel’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ has been primarily supported by The Bagri Foundation and was co-commissioned by Sadler’s Wells, The Place, Birmingham Hippodrome, Curve, The Lowry, Pavilion Dance South West, Dance 4 and Akademi as part of their 40th anniversary. It is also further supported by Arts Council England, British Council, Dance City, Kala Sangam, Spin Arts and Yorkshire Dance.


(May 9-May 23)
Today (Monday, May 13) Salford, The Lowry.
Tuesday, May 14 – Birmingham Patrick Centre The Patrick Centre.
Thursday, May 16 – Bournemouth, Pavilion Dance South West Surf The Wave
Friday & Saturday, May 17 & 18 London, The Place
Tuesday, May 21 – Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre
Thursday, May 23 – Bradford Kala Sangam


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Written by Asian Culture Vulture