A seething pack of hooded androgynous people creep across the stage. It is white. The lights are bright. The music is loud, discordant. Their movements are fluid and hypnotic. For a time, they remain linked, almost symbiotic, contorting into impossible shapes but never losing the connection between the eight dancers. This is Ritualia.
Colette Sadler, a contemporary choreographer who works between Glasgow and Berlin, was invited to work with Scottish Dance Theatre to reimagine Igor Stravinsky and Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces, originally premiered in Paris in 1923. Nijinska’s original work was born from Russian folk traditions surrounding a wedding, marking the consecration of the newly married couple and then celebrating their union with a feast. Sadler has overhauled the original, blurring gender identity into a sexless celebration of union and unity.
As the music wends its way into the twenty-first century, so the choreography keeps pace. The dancers are incredible; effortlessly sinuous in their defiant flouting of gendered expectations. Rike Zollner’s costumes heighten the sense that these are timeless, gender-neutral creatures rather than people – until the dancers slide into an angular version of courtly ritual that seems entirely modern. Joyously colourful lighting (Samuli Laine) accentuates the celebration whilst maintaining an eerie distance between audience and dancers that magnifies the strange sense of voyeurism.
A visual feast that’s spiky with personality, this production is all sorts of food for thought. Those that measure value for money by show length should beware – Ritualia is a a tidy half hour. But for those after a perky supper time treat, this modern-day take on ritual perfectly fits the bill.