Few adaptations of The Rite of Spring are as creative as Michael Keegan-Dolan’s production performed in 2009 by the Fabulous Beast dance company. The ballet has been re-imagined in an extraordinary way. The whole dance is full of connotations, juxtapositions and analogies.
Set in an anonymous working-class patriarchal town, the catalyst for the whole story is a haggard old woman, a Cailleach. Under her witchy spell the men begin to lose their modern civility, reverting to an atavistic ritualised pagan demeanour. The men turn against their one another, becoming animalistic, revolting against their patriarchal elders, wielding knives against the old and the weak. This behaviour becomes heightened, even rabid and murderous when the dancers don oversized dog heads and begin to hunt three women, who in turn don their own hare heads.
THE CHASE IS NOW ON!
The dog heads are truly terrifying;rendering the metamorphic men nightmarish, as if out of some gothic tale of magic and mayhem. The canine animalistic instincts mixed with the male testosterone are almost palpable as the men run riot on stage, creating an atmosphere of terror and chaos. The town is losing its humanity, ushering in an age of Darwinian survival.
The Cailleach’s spell is only broken when winter is brought to an end. However, in Keegan-Dolan’s production it is not the fatal sacrifice of a girl which concludes winter and welcomes in the spring. Instead of one Chosen One the whole male community, lead by a single girl, must undergo a process of enlightenment and feminisation. The saviour of the town lies in the men embracing femininity and casting off the mentality which was the root of their predatory animalistic behaviour. The men discard their clothing, redressing themselves in brightly coloured patterned sundresses and dance into a frenzy as snowflakes fall on to them.