Sat, Oct 05, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Pagan dance, Christian dance

The Neo-Classic Dance Company debuts two works inspired by religious traditions

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Neo-Classic Dance Company is performing Spring Rite, this weekend at the National Theater, accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra.

Photo Courtesy of National Theater Concert Hall

The Neo-Classic Dance Company (新古典舞團) will return to the National Theater, accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra, this weekend to perform two works based on very different religious rituals.

The company, founded 37 years ago and led by Liu Feng-shueh (劉鳳學), gained famed for Lin’s recreations of Tang dynasty dances and music, as well as her more contemporary modern-dance choreography.

The company will perform two new works by Liu, The Spring Rite (春之祭) and Salvation of Christ (基督的救贖). Both works examine the link between dedication and salvation, wildness and sacrifice.

The Spring Rite is based upon Russian compose Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du printemps) written for the Ballets Russes 100 years ago and first choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. The score has served as the inspiration for dozens of choreographers of all stripes for decades.

Liu said she decided to use it this year because it is the 100th anniversary of the composition and she likes its distinct rhythm, beat and the strong emotions it evokes.

In Nijinsky’s version, the story centers on a young woman who dances herself to death as a ritual sacrifice as part of a pagan rite. Liu has used ancient Chinese literature as her inspiration, as well as the references to rain dance rituals on the Shang oracle bones and in Tang Dynasty records.

In her version, humans are praying in front of their gods hoping for salvation — in the form of the much-needed rain for farming — which she sees as the beginning of the conversation between gods and humans, with the Shang emperor acting as intermediary.

Salvation of Christ uses French composer Olivier Messiaen’s monumental La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jesus-Christ, which took him four years to write and tells the story of Jesus’ transfiguration.

Performance notes

What: The Spring Rite and Salvation of Christ by the Neo-Classic Dance Company

When: Tonight at 7:30pm and tomorrow at 2:30pm

Where: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

Admission: NT$1,200; 1,500; 2,000 tickets are left for tonight; tomorrow just NT$1,200 and 2,000 are left. Available at NTCH box office, online at or at 7-Eleven ibon kiosks

Salvation of Christ begins with pilgrims on the road, then Jesus being mobbed and ends with people mourning his sacrifice.

Liu said she is not a Christian, but “prays” every night before bed, thanking heaven for her relatives, friends and dancers. She said she found Messiaen’s music very moving.

Liu has explored the Christian religious world before, most notably with Carmina Burana 1992, which she restaged in 2006 at the National Theater. If that piece is any indication, Liu definitely has an outsider’s perspective on the Catholic imagery evoked by the score.

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