There is merely a thin line between a bloodstained pagan ritual and a selfless sacrifice. The Peacock Contemporary Dance Company integrates Buddhist elements to construct the Rite of Spring as an Oriental rite that transcends life and death. In a mandala formed with the six-syllabled Sanskrit mantra, the dancers recreate the Buddha in Dunhuang murals with identical hand gestures (mudras), which are then used to imitate flying birds and put onto the ground in homage to the universe. While manifesting Buddha-nature and the natural world, the dancers’ bodies also represent the bodies of common people who stand in awe of the universe. The rite of spring is thus centred around the transition between divinity, nature and humanity. As birds start to chirp, the dancers sitting lengthwise extend their arms with their long, fluorescent-green nails dispersing and gathering to recreate a peacock opening its feathers, and then transform their stretching and quivering arms into those of the thousand-hand Bodhisattva. The closely related movement designs create a strong connection between the life cycles in spring and reincarnation; the Buddhist outlook on life and death continues to the climax of the vernal rite – a sacrificial dance, where the girl victim awakens to become the sacrifice-maker, dancing with the six-syllabled Sanskrit mantra and following the Buddhist practice, thus elevating Rite of Spring from a sacrificial ritual to a journey toward Buddhahood.
By Bowie Wong
Graduated from the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Wong is an art critic with a passion for literature, film, dance and theatre. She has written reviews for various cultural publications, including Ming Pao, Delta Zhi and Shanghai Art Review.
This article is excerpted and translated from Chinese