Rambert Dance Company

"Ghost Dances," "Hurricane," "Unrest," & "Cheese"

Theatre Royal, Brighton, UK

June 20, 2002
By Lyndsey Winship

Whatever your feelings about company branding and all that goes with it, you canít deny that the Rambert name is the strongest brand in contemporary dance and is a tasty hook for the punters. 75 years of reputation does the box office takings no harm, but it also results in a company who know exactly what theyíre about; strong technique, a varied programme with accessibility and humour guaranteed along with something edgier. Just enough classicism not to scare off the old guard, just enough innovation to keep the avant-garde interested.

The Brighton programme included a Rambert classic, Ghost Dances, first performed in 1981. Set to South American folk music and inspired by indigenous South American rituals, the piece falls into a very traditional structure with a loose narrative, solos, pas de deux and ensemble pieces plus fragments of folk dance. With its painted backdrop and dramatic costumes it does look dated as a piece of contemporary dance, but at the same time, Christopher Bruceís unabashed representation of real people, places and issues is refreshing.

Bruceís twin pillar in the world of contemporary choreography, Richard Alston, contributes a work of an altogether opposite nature. Alston revels in the abstract and his opening piece Unrest has the pure, serene profundity of a secular mass. I sometimes think Alston makes things easy for himself by choosing such impactful and beautiful music to accompany his work (in this case, Arvo Pšrtís Fratres for solo violin and piano). But having seen Angelin Preljocaj attempt to match Stravinskyís massive Rite of Spring, I realise that it can also be a steep challenge. Alston coasts through, as ever.

A more curious proposition is Bruceís piece Hurricane, set to Bob Dylanís song about the black American boxer Robin "Hurricane" Carter who was framed for a triple murder charge in the 60s. While Dylan can tell the tale and comment on the shocking nature of the story, interpreting this in dance is a much riskier prospect. Bruce opts for the absurd, with a white-faced mime, a Commedia dellíArte figure, playing out the parts. Itís definitely brave and oddly poignant, but mocking the comic/tragic divide, Bruce fails to match Dylanís political punch.

The closing piece, Jeremy Jamesí Cheese, has a strikingly different voice to the rest of the programme. With buzzing electricity, the dancers fizz with static and unleash a kinetic chain of physical events, spasms and ticks. They could be drawn by magnetic forces, or programmed by remote control. The clubby music is in parts, cheesy (like the title says), but the movement never descends into pop video routines. Jamesí original language gives the Rambert programme the bite it needs to keep its reputation as a truly contemporary company intact.


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Edited by Marie.

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