Rambert Dance Company

'Visions Fugitives,' 'Ghost Dances,' '21'

by Cassandra

May 21, 2003 -- Sadlers Wells Theatre, London

The Rambert Dance Company programme at Sadlers Wells this week really is unmissable.

It opens with the company’s recently acquired work by Hans van Manen, "Visions Fugitives," danced to an arrangement for string quartet of the familiar piano works of the same title by Prokofiev.

According to the choreographer, “the choreography is what you see with no deeper meaning”. Van Manen has always been the master commentator on the battle of the sexes and frankly it is difficult to watch some of the encounters without sensing underlying emotional attachments. For example when you watch a male dancer repeatedly put his hands around a woman’s throat, you can be forgiven for thinking that something more than mere abstraction is going on!

This is a well-constructed work with strong dancing from all involved. My only reservation was about the costumes, which consisted of unitards decorated with diagonal pin stripes: not flattering at all I’m afraid.

The second work of the evening was Christopher Bruce’s wonderful "Ghost Dances," a ballet that I’ve been watching now for over 20 years.

Bruce never shirked from difficult subjects and this homage to the “disappeared” of the Pinochet regime in Chile has never failed to move me. The ballet opens with three male spirits dancing in silence in the wilderness of the high Andes. The lovely Chilean music begins as the spirits are joined by the ghosts of the recent dead, the victims of oppression who relive their former happiness in dances that frequently refer to the traditional folkdances of the region.

They dance out their former lives and loves under the ever watchful gaze of the sinister spirits that move among the dancers seemingly terminating their memories and ushering them into the realm of death. Does that sound depressing? It should be but it isn’t. It is meant as a tribute to those that suffered under an evil regime, tortured and subjugated but never totally extinguished.

"21," the final offering of the evening was about “the meaning of celebrity and adoration”, a very topical issue at a time when the word celebrity no longer has a clear meaning and the general public apparently has an insatiable appetite for everyone the media tells them is an icon.

Frankly I approached this work expecting satire of some sort, were I a choreographer, I would see the theme as ripe for comic spoof but Raphael Bonachela clearly sees no irony in his chosen subject.

Kylie Minogue is the featured celeb and Bonachela literally elevates her into a goddess as she occupies the stage in the form of a giantess looking down on the dancers as Lilliputians. Ms Minogue is regarded as much for her looks as for her singing and the camera zooms in on her body lovingly lingering over ever curve. Meanwhile the scantily clad dancers execute some high-energy choreography to a score that reminded me in part of the sound of an earth tremor I once experienced while on holiday in Greece.

It was all very enjoyable, the dancers were terrific and the use of film was very striking but it didn’t tell me anything about the preoccupation with celebrity in contemporary society. In other words great fun, but I didn’t get it.

For another perspective on this performance, read Thea Barnes' review.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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