EIF: The Rite of Spring/ Common Ground [s], Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

The ensemble of women in The Rite of Spring
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
A Pina Bausch Foundation, École des Sables & Sadler’s Wells production
The Rite of Spring:
Pina Bausch (Choreographer ), Igor Stravinsky (Composer), Rolf Borzik ( Set and Costume Designer),
Josephine Ann Endicott, Jorge Puerta Armenta and Clémentine Deluy (Restaging Artistic Directors )
Common Ground [s] :
Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo ( Co-Choreographers), Fabrice Bouillon LaForest (Composer),
Petra Leidner ( Costume Designer), Zeynep Kepekli (Lighting Designer), Sophiatou Kossoko (Dramaturg).
The Rite of Spring: Ensemble of 34 dancers.
Common Ground [s]: Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo
Running time

Dance, dance otherwise we are lost. Everything must come from the heart, must be lived.” Pina Bausch, (1940-2009)

The UK premiere of The Rite of Spring by Pina Bausch was staged at the EIF in 1978 and now returns to Edinburgh in a revival performed by a specially selected cast of 34 African dancers from Cote d’Ivoire to Senegal, Mozambique to Togo. Featuring original choreography, this is a fresh, innovative production in tribute to Pina's pioneering, creative spirit. 

First, as a curtain raiser,  new work, Common Ground[s] devised by Germaine Acogny, (78), the ‘mother of contemporary African dance’ and Malou Airaudo, (74), is a serene, dreamlike duet exploring their friendship, womanhood, and cultural heritage. In silence, a coral pink sunrise bathes the stage, followed by birdsong and gradually the sound of gentle drumming creates a rhythmic beat. In soft whispers, (which can hardly be heard), they seem to reminisce on their long lives together, a shared common ground and their destiny, ‘whatever will be, will be’.  

For The Rite of Spring, the floor is now covered in a dark brown carpet of fine peat.  A group of young women dressed in ivory silk slips, scamper and skip in joyous mood as they join in a traditional ritual, like Mayday, to welcome the arrival of Spring.  Stravinsky’s score begins with a slow Lithuanian folk melody before it explodes with shrieking brass and thunderous percussion.  The premiere of the Le Sacre du Printemps in 1913 shocked the Parisian audience, many walking out, while Puccini claimed that the music was ‘the work of a madman’.

The choreography deftly follows the complex rhythms, dissonant notes and pulsating beat. The dancers’ energy intensifies, sometimes crowding, bonding together in a tight circle, then breaking away as they each lie flat out on the earth, as if embracing the scent of flourishing nature.  Suddenly, a group of bare-chested men rush into this melee, the women at first scattering here and there, until the two rival tribes find their place. Will this be a violent confrontation or a communal celebration? 

This battle of the sexes is performed with vibrant, vivacious theatricality -  fast, frantic, at times fearful: now dripping in sweat and dirt, the men appear like a battalion of Braveheart men facing the regiment of women, their faces smudged in war paint. The tension mounts as a red dress is passed around in the search for a sacrificial victim, the Chosen One.  

Dovi Afi Anique Ayiboe is simply breath-taking in this solo role - wildly exuberant, sensual, sexual, shaking and shuddering, lost in a trance of euphoria.  Her dress is partially ripped, exposing one breast to show her powerless vulnerability in her dramatic dance to death.

Dance is something other than technique. We forget where the movements come from - they are born from life.’ Pina Bausch

As the ensemble come from 14 different African countries, they bring their own multi-cultural knowledge of local, ethnic rhythms, hip hop and jazz.  They also bring their own personal reflection of life which has an extraordinary synergy to the narrative depicting the ancient, ancestral rite of passage

The perfect marriage of Stravinsky’s strident score and Bausch’s feisty choreography which combine together with a pounding, pulsating crescendo of emotional expression of music and movement: an electrifying, unforgettable, theatrical experience. 


17 – 19 August @19:30

Ticket prices: from £18 (+ £1.75 Playhouse restoration levy)