The best performance I’ve ever seen: Bijan Sheibani

This production of The Rite of Spring by Pina Bausch, a dance-theatre piece set to Stravinsky’s music, left me speechless. The set was simple. The stage was covered in earth. There were about 30 dancers and as they moved, earth started to cling to their bodies. At the centre was a couple – a man and woman. The piece built to a dance of death performed by the woman (Ruth Amarante). She wore a deep red dress. Her dancing seemed pagan – it seemed she was dancing for her life.

To see the human body in that state stirred up in me conflicting feelings: horror, admiration and a sense of the beauty of the choreography. It was horrific and yet you couldn’t help but be transfixed.

Behind the woman, the other dancers performed minimal, relentless, repetitive movements. The man became part of the chorus. One felt a great distance between the woman and the group.

I wanted to read stories into what I saw – I felt this could be about a contemporary couple breaking up; it could be Adam and Eve; or a portrait of someone isolated from society. It was metaphorical and visceral. Nothing was extraneous. That is something I aspire to in my work. I’m working on Eurydice and thinking about how the body tells stories. The spoken language is only part of what I do. When I go to a performance I want to be unable to resist being drawn in. That’s the aspiration of my work too.

Bijan Sheibani is artistic director of ATC. He has been nominated for a best director Olivier award for his production of Our Class at the National Theatre. Eurydice opens on Thursday at the Drum theatre Plymouth, then tours


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