Blogs

7 May 2019
Author: The Place

"I hope it will be joyous, life affirming and invigorating" - Seeta Patel talks about ‘The Rite of Spring’

Award-winning choreographer Seeta Patel is re-imagining the iconic ballet through the classical Indian dance style, Bharatanatyam.

Set to be an exciting flirtation between East and West, this new production showcases some of the finest international classical dance talent. Seeta talked to us about her specific approach to Stravinsky’s epic score, the challenges of Bharatanatyam and the designs of the show.

What are the challenges of presenting The Rite of Spring in the style of Bharatanatayam?

Seeta Patel: Bharatanatyam is a non-contact dance form so without the element of partner work and weight sharing between dancers I had to be able to create tension and physical relationships in different ways. Bharatanatyam is also a very geometric and refined classical dance form so to be able to create the visceral - almost tribal – power, a work like this needs without it feeling too polished has been interesting. But it’s also been great to create the power through the footwork and intricate detail inherent in Bharatanatyam. 

How did you match the choreography to Stravinsky’s famous score?
Seeta Patel: Rhythm and footwork have been a big focus of mine and the power of six strong dancers highlighting aspects of the score is a sight to be seen and heard that’s for sure!

How did you cast your dancers?
Seeta Patel: I have worked with most of the dancers at some point in my career so it’s great to be able to work with them again, though in a different capacity this time. They each bring an individualism, but also an openness to pushing the edges of Bharatanatyam and really owning my choreographic choices within their bodies. 

And how did you approach the look, the style of the piece?
Seeta Patel: The look of the work has gradually evolved: from the initial photo shoot where costumes hadn’t been decided but I knew the feel and textures I liked, to long discussions with the costume designers about the concept I wanted to bring out through my interpretation. A lot of talking, questions and clarifying thoughts lead us to find the wonderful colour pallet and design for the show. 

What do you think audiences will particularly enjoy about your production?  
Seeta Patel: I hope they enjoy lots of aspects. But overall I think the combination of the music and the dance form will be joyous, life affirming and invigorating, and hopefully leave the audience wanting to see more. 

What are you hoping to achieve with this production?  
Seeta Patel: I hope this production shows the wonderful possibilities of the Bharatanatyam art form and helps to raise its profile to have a place on the main stages of dance venues across the world. Bharatanatyam and other classical Indian forms are often pigeonholed into exotic or ethnic brackets, and this ‘othering’ of non western art forms is a great loss to the potential diversity of talent and cultural excellence out there. I hope this work transcends the cultural barriers and aesthetic differences often faced by artists of the diaspora by being an exciting and fresh production that people really get a kick out of. 

Is Bharatanatayam taught in the UK and how long is the training?  
Seeta Patel: Yes Bharatanatyam is taught extensively in the UK. Training often starts at a young age and takes many years to train in the same way it takes many years to master a musical instrument, or ballet or any other physically elite activity. I don’t think the training and learning ever really stops for a serous dancer. 

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