On Sunday 6 May, the De La Warr Pavilion presented RITE: on this pliant body we slip our WOW!, an extraordinary and powerful performance devised and choreographed by Florence Peake, presented by a host of dancers who performed in six tonnes of wet clay.

RITE reinterprets a monumental moment in modernism’s history: Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, composed for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky. This notorious production provoked riots when it opened in 1913.

The mound of clay that remains in the gallery, moulded by the dancers as they moved, will be the centrepiece of a new exhibition by Peake featuring a painted frieze encircling the gallery walls and a soundtrack by Beatrice Dillon made from audio recordings of Peake handling the clay.

For the painted frieze, Peake collaborated with the Pavilion’s workers – people who interact with a modernist architectural icon almost every day – drawing outlines of their bodies as they move to the music in a series of private sessions. Inspired by iconic methods of depicting historic scenes in classical and medieval friezes and tapestries, the wall-paintings abstract the rite of spring through movement, drawing, paint and plaster.

Drawing on the The Rite Of Spring’s rich legacy, RITE reclaims triumphant physicality as political statement– presenting the primal body as a powerful force in the struggle for change.

RITE is almost camp in its accumulation of references. Classical sculpture, a dance history spanning from Isadora Duncan to Xavier Le Roy, and the brutally sensorial performances of Carolee Schneemann and Hermann Nitsch all resonate with Peake’s ambitious project. Informed also by feminist theory, Peake draws on this rich cultural legacy to reclaim triumphant physicality as political statement. She presents the body as primal, visceral, erotic – impervious, in the artist’s own words, to “neo-fascist normalization”: in this way, her approach is a form of protest. She says, “RITE rejects post-modern cynicism. It is a bodily affirmation that in the current political climate, blasé detachment is no longer an option.

Peake has worked closely with a host of dancers, Iris Chan, Katye Coe, Antonio De La Fe, Samuel Kennedy and Susanna Recchia, applying to visual art collaborative strategies more usually associated with dance and theatre. At RITE’s core is a drive to expand the relationship between movement and material, a concern that has informed the artist’s practice for over a decade

Research on RITE was generously supported by the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project 2016-17 with partners Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Cambridge Junction, Dance4, Greenwich Dance, LIFT, London College of Fashion, Sadler’s Wells, Site Gallery, Tintype Gallery and by public funding through Arts Council England. It was developed through residencies at Somerset House Studios, Site Gallery and Cass Sculpture Foundation in partnership with West Dean College and through a solo show at Studio Leigh.

RITE: On this pliant body we slip our WOW! is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

About Florence Peake

Florence Peake is a London-based artist who has been making work since 1995.

A selection of recent exhibitions includes Andromedan Sad Girl, a collaborative exhibition with Tai Shani at Wysing Arts Centre (2017), RITE at Studio Leigh, London (2017), Walled Gardens in an Insane Eden, Sara Zanin Gallery, Rome (2017); The Keeners, SPACE, London; Voicings, Serpentine Gallery Offsite Project, London (2016); Lay me down, NoTT Dance Festival, Nottingham, UK; Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, UK (2015); Swell the Thickening Surface of, Hayward Gallery, London (2014); MAKE, BALTIC, Gateshead, UK; Swell the Thickening Surface of, Tintype, London (2013); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire, UK; REMAKE, Baltic 39, Gateshead, UK; Lanchester Gallery, Coventry, UK (2012); Chorus; Paper Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London (2010).

As a trained dancer Florence Peake’s background in choreography and painting stimulates a studio practice that is both diverse and immersive. Often working performatively to incorporate drawing, painting and sculptural materials, Peake’s work explores the relationship of materials to the moving body.

Through public performances and carefully choreographed works Florence Peake challenges notions of physicality, loss and political concerns such as the commodification of art by the corporate world. By encouraging chaotic relationships between the body and material, Peake creates radical and outlandish performances, which create temporary alliances and micro-communities within the audience. In believing that objects and materials have their own autonomy and subjectivity, Peake draws on the expansive vocabulary of materials to enhance and contextualise her work. The sculptural works operate as documentation of the performance, but never in a reductive way, as Peake attempts to incorporate the effect of site, audience and much more than the pure physicality of the performance.

Staying locally

There are plenty of welcoming and good value B&Bs & boutique hotels in Bexhill. The De La Warr Pavilion regularly uses the following :

Travel information
  • By Rail
    Direct trains go from London Victoria, Brighton and Ashford to Bexhill.
    There are also trains from London Charing Cross, changing at St. Leonards Warrior Square and from London Bridge or Charing Cross going to Battle. Battle is only a short taxi journey away (15 mins approx).
    Visit www.nationalrail.co.uk for up-to-date train travel information.
  • Taxis
    Town Taxis:  01424 211 511
    Parkhurst Taxis:  01424 733 456
  • By Car
    If driving from the London area:
    Take the M25, then A21 to Hastings. Turn off at John‘s Cross and follow the signs to Bexhill.
    Take the A22 to Eastbourne, go across the Bishop roundabout to the A271 and follow the signs to Bexhill and the seafront. The De La Warr Pavilion is on the Marina.
    From the Brighton area:
    Follow the A27 out of Brighton until you arrive in Bexhill On Sea.
  • Parking
    Please be aware the Rother District car park outside the De La Warr Pavilion operates paid parking until 7pm. After this time parking is free. There is also lmiited free car parking along the seafront.

Within the limits of this Grade One listed building, the De La Warr Pavilion strives to be fully accessible with a range of facilities to support your visit.

Assistance Dogs are permitted into the building.

Please contact the Box Office on 01424 229 111 to arrange a visit.

Facilities for disabled visitors

  • Ramped access at the front of the building
  • A low counter at the Box Office and  Information Desk
  • Disabled toilets on two floors
  • A lift to all floors
  • Accessible galleries on both floors
  • An accessible Café
  • Spaces for wheelchairs in the auditorium for seated events
  • Ramped access in the auditorium for events during the day
  • Ramped access into the Studio
  • Two travel wheelchairs are available for use at the De La Warr Pavilion. To reserve, please call our box office and information desk on (01424) 229111 or ask a member of staff on arrival. The chairs are provided on a first come, first served basis and are intended for use inside the Pavilion. Please contact us for more information.

Facilities for blind or visually-impaired

  • Large print season brochures

Facilities for the hard-of-hearing

  • An T-Switch induction loop in some areas of the auditorium (please indicate when booking as this facility is not available on the balcony)
  • British Sign Language interpretation tours of the building and exhibitions are available on request.