Review: Rite of Spring (Luminato with Yang Liping and Peacock Contemporary Dance Company)

Luminato presents dance by Chinese choreographer Yang Yiping for Toronto audiences

Rite of Spring, playing this weekend at the MacMillan Theatre as part of the Luminato Festival, is a sumptuous dance experience that is a feast for the senses. For her first Canadian presentation, dancer and choreographer Yang Liping brings this stunning piece set to the score of the same title by Igor Stravinsky to Toronto audiences.

The soul behind this interpretation of Rite of Spring is Eastern philosophy and wisdom. In essence, this performance is a visual study of Tibetan and and Chinese Buddhism. A deep wealth of knowledge and understanding of Buddhism isn’t required to appreciate this performance as the program handed out provides detailed descriptions of the images and concepts explored. It’s a good idea to give the program a read through prior to the show, as my friend Tiffany who joined me for the evening said she’d be lost if she hadn’t.

The performance focuses on 15 dancers – women dressed in stunning colourful dresses representing the Taras, or goddesses, in Tibetan Buddhist belief. A devoted Lama, or monk, who diligently and carefully arranges symbols, the teachings of the Buddha, throughout the world. Despite any and all manners of chaos around him, the Lama does not get distracted from his task. A priest dons the head of a lion symbolizing bravery and courage. When he is not the lion personified, he represents desire.

With an otherworldly and jaw-dropping set by visual director Tim Yip, flowing lush costumes, and remarkable acrobatic performances, Rite of Spring is transformative. The audience is whisked away to another realm where meditation transcends the physical and reincarnation happens before your eyes.

Those familiar with Stravinsky’s score will be able to rediscover the piece with a newfound appreciation when seeing it paired with Liping’s gorgeous choreography. This performance truly does breathe new life into the music with a performance style that many have not seen before.


  • Rite of Spring is playing at the MacMillan Theatre (80 Queen’s Park) as part of the Luminato Festival until June 22 2019.
  • Remaining performances include June 22 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
  • Tickets range from $55 to $195 for adults, $30 or $71.25 for students/youth, arts workers, and those under 30.
  • Tickets can be purchased online.
  • Audience Advisory: This performance contains theatrical haze and fog.

Photo from Rite of Spring courtesy of Peacock Contemporary Dance Company