Circa: Sacre review – an original and awesome Stravinsky reboot

·2 min read

Since Nijinsky’s riot-inducing premiere of Le Sacre du Printemps (The Rite of Spring) in 1913, countless choreographers have tackled Stravinsky’s mighty score including Pina Bausch, Maurice Béjart, Kenneth MacMillan and Michael Clark. This is the UK premiere of Australian circus group Circa’s dive into the Rite, part of this year’s Brighton festival.

This reboot is a mood piece, a sombre, slow-burn crescendo, which starts not with Stravinsky, but a rumbling soundscore by Philippe Bachman, until the rumbling gives way to plaintive bassoon and Stravinsky’s music unfurls. In parallel, the performance moves from fleeting solo and duo interactions, with bodies deftly lifted, tossed and balanced, a partner’s weight deflected with invisible effort, into a community of 10 performers bound by some ominous force, woven in changing textures and complex structures of limbs, like a tangle of ancient tree roots.

Circa made their name combining inventive acrobatics with contemporary dance sensibility, director Yaron Lifschitz expanding tricks and bodies into larger, more symphonic pictures. The speed and dexterity is awe-inspiring but there’s great pleasure in the detail: the moment a man’s backbend gets just to the point of falling and he softly lands on the back of another performer beneath him. Or Veronique Bennett’s stark lighting on a plain black stage, when a running woman launches herself at a man and the light cuts out just as he would catch her.

In keeping with The Rite of Spring’s themes, there is a sense of being shaken by outside forces, ritual in the building of formations raising individuals up to the sky, humans pushing forth without always knowing why, throwing their bodies at each other in desperation. This Sacre doesn’t get too misogynistic on the sacrificial maiden front – the women are as strong as the men, one carries two on her shoulders and holds the weight of two others clinging to her at the same time – but it does rise to an intense denouement, isolated woman at the centre, slamming her splits into the floor. It’s a story told and retold, the draw of Stravinsky’s music too powerful to ignore, and as Lifschitz shows, it can still inspire rich rewards.

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