THE RITE OF SPRING:
A People's Stravinsky
AN INTERVIEW WITH
Lim Yau, Music Director & Conductor | Angela Liong, Choreographer & Stage Director
Why is this an important collaboration between The Philharmonic Orchestra (TPO) and The ARTS FISSION Company (AF)?
Lim Yau: In performing The Rite of Spring, TPO brings to a satisfying close its 100 Years Later series, in which each of the three major ballets by Igor Stravinsky is honoured by having a performance presented on its respective centenary. In this last and most iconic of the three works, TPO looks to present it in its original form as a dance, and has sought to working with a dance company to this end. It is important for us to collaborate with AF’s Artistic Director Angela Liong, who brings not just her edgy choreography to this project, but her unique eye as a chronicler of the modern Asian identity as well.
On a larger scale, this collaboration between dance and music is essential as sadly, it seems that it is increasingly harder to find dance productions in Singapore that is presented with a live orchestra. This collaboration seeks to renew this balance between the two mediums, as both companies recognise that the synergy between the musician and the dancer is vital to the quality of the performance.
Angela: It takes opportune timing combined with much effort and resources for an orchestra and a dance company to collaborate on a project. Just the sheer number of performers involved will put this project on a Herculean scale!
At the same time, due to limited resources, it is a rare act in Singapore for a contemporary dance company to collaborate with a full orchestra. Hence to be able to work with The Philharmonic Orchestra, and especially under the music direction of the experienced and well-respected conductor Lim Yau is truly an artistic treat for ARTS FISSION.
Why is The Rite of Spring an important piece of work?
Lim Yau: No other piece of western Classical music has shaped 20th century aesthetic in such a profound way as the Rite has. Without precedent, Stravinsky created a work that defied what a ballet, much less an orchestral work, should sound like. It is a beast of a work that is driven by rhythmic vigour and a forceful vitality that still influences how composers today think of music, and how audiences hear it. Quite simply, the Rite came from nowhere, and changed everything.
Angela: The historic and artistic background of the original work marked a new milestone and breakthrough in contemporary music and dance making for the 20th century. The fact that The Rite of Spring still occupies an important place in most orchestras and dance companies' repertoire after 100 years speaks for itself.
How are you adapting or reinterpreting The Rite of Spring, and what can audiences expect?
Lim Yau: Come to find out!
Angela: In terms of staging the dance, I take an Asian perspective to interpret the ritual of Spring in our culture. I am using the 24 seasonal markers in the ancient Chinese lunisolar calendar to deconstruct the original work into visually engaging episodes. The rich shades of red, symbolic of blood. will feature prominently in dramatic costumes and hand props. Besides professional dancers, I will also be working with an intergenerational cast that involves children and elderly performers to highlight the concept of regeneration and the cycles of Nature.
How is this production going to be ‘A People's Stravinsky’?
Angela: To call this production ‘A People’s Stravinsky’, the creative approach is first and foremost to examine how the professional artists could involve people from all walks of life and work with them in a meaningful way from the preparatory stage of the performance to the final presentation at the Concert Hall.
We selected children from our dance enrichment program to play the young virgins from the original ballet. We also contacted various senior homes and activity centres to work with groups of seniors to play the venerable elders in the performance.
In order to prepare the senior performers, we designed dance-theatre workshops to introduce them to Stravinsky’s music and expose them to the idea of contemporary dance theatre. We are also reaching out to people from all walks of life to get involved in various production aspects of the performance.
Therefore it is truly ‘A People’s Stravinsky’ as it is driven by professional artists but actively involving the community in an inter-generational and meaningful collaboration.
What impact would you like this production to have on the audience?
Lim Yau: That one hundred years later, audiences who are familiar with the work will experience the enduring vitality of the Rite in its original form. For audiences who are new to classical music, this production offers a chance to be drawn into Stravinsky’s extraordinary sound world.
On top of this, we invite the audience to challenge and add to their palate with the novel combination of artistic elements that this collaborative production offers.
Angela: I hope the audience will come away with the impression of how the performing arts has the capacity to bring different people in the community together and enable meaningful interaction. That good art can inspire and enrich everyday life, and touch people no matter what experience or background they come from.