Stage flight: theatregoers aflutter after bat swoops into London show | Stage

Audience members at Sadler’s Wells theater in London were taken aback when a bat unexpectedly flew in and out of a production of The Rite of Spring on Wednesday night.

A company of 24 dancers were mid-performance when the bat appeared, flapping its way around the stage and into the auditorium before returning to its roost after the show had finished. Alistair Spalding, artistic director and chief executive of Sadler’s Wells, said: “We had an extra cast member join us at The Rite of Spring for one night only. It did not quite learn the choreography but it put in a fantastic performance. ”

The creature’s surprise appearance heightened the drama of Pina Bausch’s masterpiece about a sacrificial maiden, driven by Stravinsky’s stirring music and danced on a stage covered with peat.

The production, presented by Sadler’s Wells, the Pina Bausch Foundation and Senegal’s École des Sables, is on a global tour after a turbulent couple of years. It was originally due to have its premiere in Dakar, Senegal, in March 2020 and visit London that spring. Those performances were canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the company found time to film a final run-through of the production on the beach in Toubab Dialaw.

Two years later, The Rite of Spring has finally arrived at Sadler’s Wells as part of a double bill – but the accompanying piece, Common Ground[s] by Germaine Acogny and Malou Airaudo, was canceled at the 11th hour because of a Covid case in its company. The tour has been a mammoth undertaking, with 157 visas issued for a team with dancers from 14 African countries. More than 2,700 Covid tests have been administered on the journey so far.

Howard Clark, director of visitor experience at Sadler’s Wells, said that when the venue reopened after lockdown, they found that they had welcomed some bats as new residents. The theater’s building services and housekeeping teams are following guidance from the Bat Conservation Trust and working with a local bat protection group. “The special guest fluttered its way to the curtain call for a well-deserved round of applause,” said Spalding.

The Rite of Spring ends on Saturday night. The film of the 2020 beach performance, entitled Dancing at Dusk, is currently online on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage.

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