Review: Zuni Icosahedron’s Rite of Spring - Stravinsky in hoodies

Intriguing ideas and impressive dancing make this Dick Wong production one of his most effective works

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 3:43pm

Choreographer and dancer Dick Wong Tai-fai’s work is always thought-provoking and his new production of The Rite of Spring (presented by Zuni Icosahedron) is no exception, offering a powerful, visually striking interpretation of Stravinsky’s music.

The Studio Theatre stage has been transformed into a box with three walls, black and blank on either side while the third is a cinema screen. The piece opens with a video of Wong on the screen in massive close-up, seated at a table with a glass of water and an ashtray. The real Wong stands in the middle of the stage below, dwarfed by his projected self.

The screen Wong directs his live alter ego to perform the same short sequence of steps over and over again, demanding continuous variations (faster, slower, sharper), which the real Wong obediently executes.

A surreal effect gradually develops as the dancer seems more and more like a puppet, controlled by the presence on the screen. There’s an obvious political inference – the sequence may be seen as showing how individuals have no control over their own fate and are manipulated by those more powerful than themselves. On the other hand, it may equally be interpreted as the artist’s constant search for perfection, a goal that can never be achieved. (“I don’t know what’s wrong, but it’s not what I want,” Wong says towards the end.)

Gradually the transmission from the screen begins to break down, finally vanishing completely and leaving the stage in darkness as the real Wong pulls a hoodie over his head and walks off.

Shafts of light appear high up above the auditorium, recalling the sunrise in the original scenario of The Rite of Spring. In another dramatic effect, a circle of light is projected in the middle of the dark stage and four dancers, all dressed alike with hoods concealing their faces, each dance alone in a corner of the stage, their movements becoming increasingly frenzied as the music builds to its celebrated climax, the moment when the Chosen One is sacrificed.

The piece ends with the screen lighting up again, this time showing just the table with the ashtray – the glass of water is now held by the real Wong, who walks onto the stage, eyeing the audience thoughtfully as he drinks the water, then exits.

This is one of Wong’s most effective works, combining intriguing ideas with impressive dancing by Wong, , Cheng Wai-pan, So Lok-kin and Jonathan Hung Chun-lok and outstanding visuals, notably Zoe Cheung’s lighting design.

The Rite of Spring, Zuni Icosahedron, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Studio Theatre. Reviewed: November 11