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Rambert Dance Company

'Visions Fugitive,' 'Ghost Dances,' '21'

by Thea Nerissa Barnes

May 21, 2003 -- Sadlers Wells Theatre, London

You can read all kinds of things into a dance. Least of all what the choreographer or even what dancers aim to convey at the end of several weeks of rehearsal.

A choreographer can state that his choreography has no meaning, but saying this is a meaning that comes with a significance and purpose of its own. Seeing dance is sometimes like seeing visual art. The eye scans the painting taking in the colour, noting the texture of the paint on the canvas and then I am faced with choices. Do I go beyond what is portrayed or linger on the surface?  Photography presents a reality but can, like visual art, become a portal to what is really in my head not what is on the canvas or in the photo. No movement is without meaning. Every gesture, every step of locomotion, transfer of weight from one side of the stage to the other, the shaping of torso to progression around or by someone has a meaning created in my mind’s eye.

Rambert’s performance was like this. Each work different in its use of space and movement vocabulary but the relationship of dance to dancer, she to he, and the carving of space supplied ample images, drew on memories, and touched interesting infatuations even though two of the works indicate a non literality.

"Visions Fugitives," Hans van Manen London premiere, finds its inspiration in Rudolf Barshai’s string orchestra rendition of fifteen of Prokofiev twenty miniature pieces for solo piano.

Van Manen’s program note states, “The choreography is what you see with no deeper meaning”. Oh how easy it is to say dismiss your inner ear and shade the theatre of the mind. But a work of such simple, infinite grace is such a vast canvas for my eye to see the movement, chase metaphors, and supply images that will last a lifetime.

Six dancers, four duets and manoeuvres from stage left to stage right range a colour scale that ,although presented in blues, greys, and black, travel vast shades of cool and hot. The vocabulary of conventional contemporary dance is pared down to lines with incidental curves. Movement without mood strangely alluded to meetings and passings, sassiness and playfulness combined with taunting glances and stern rebuffs. A pointed finger points a way as well as sends one off. Swaying hips camouflage while conventional 2nd position plié engulf and turns into something alluring and moody.

Hope Muir’s command and presence worked a counterpoint with Martin Lindinger’s youthful exuberance while Lucila Alves and Andrew Hurst added their own particular dynamic to the palette. By the end a duet by Paul Liburd and Miranda Lind leaves Lind on the floor. A duet began seemingly devoid of expression and chilly turns into anguish.

The mind has time to play around when looking at this work making up images because the movement is easily seen, well crafted and articulated. I, the witness can choose to enjoy the beauty of exquisite dancing or gallop through my own inner landscape and design my own significance. The music is a wiling accomplice and so the dance despite van Manen’s advice has so much meaning.

"Ghost Dances," Christopher Bruce’s masterpiece using South American folk music arranged by Nicholas Mojsiejenko is well known. There is a story to be told here, and here also simplicity is the key. After all this time, the work still has heart wrenching moments.

The ghosts portrayed by Simon Cooper, Paul Liburd and Martin Lindinger have not lost much of their dread and the weight is still in evidence. From the start the stage space is a way station that the ghost populate and the folk pass through. Death moves around us all and claims everyone. Death waits and prowls before close proximity take a man or a woman. In the mean time, just as life does, the dance goes on, solos, duets and group configurations of intricate foot and arm work. Folk moves synthesised within the fabric of contemporary dance. As each member of the group meets an end the progression from upstage left corner to downstage right corner to exit, the ghost move in, hide, watch and in the end take their place to wait for the next group.

The London premiere of "21" represents a collaboration between choreographer Rafael Bonachela, Benjamin Wallfisch who created the sound scape and William Baker and Alan Macdonald who created the video-scape. Kylie Minogue is the lead  dancer with whom Bonachela has been choreographing for the past year.

There were no pop culture remixes here; only contemporary dance of the sort that would probably not bode well with hard-core pop culture addicts. You have to have a good ear to hear the rhythmical textures in Wallfisch’s soundscape and a good eye to catch all the movement “signs” in this work.

In three seven-minute long sections (hence the name), "21" begins with a tame dynamic. Non literal in intention, the composition begins with three female dancers in underwear complete with stocking holders. This choice of costume, built on female undergarments, is across the board for all the dancers. The feel is not androgynous even though some of the lifting is unisex.

My reading of this dance is that the imagery has parallels with similar castings in visual art. The three graces, portrayed by Ruben’s curvaceous figures and Picasso’s variations of mood blue, smooth curved women hint at the myth of Aphrodite. With the opening cast of three female dancers, is Minogue the Aphrodite of this landscape, a spirit to be adored, an object to be coveted? The lithe muscularity of Amy Hollingsworth, Miranda Lind, and Samantha Smith ooze a spirit that flops, raps around, and coils. The dancers’ legs slash and whip to the side as the other lifts one dancer or two carry the one. The dynamic is a monochrome glow like the neon light that stretches from side to side and rises as one section of seven minutes ends and the other begins.

The backdrop rises to reveal the projection machinery and with it Minogue the image becomes “goddess” who walks as if on air from up to downstage right. Minogue’s image becoming clearer as the video screen lowers making a celluloid 4th wall that encloses the dancers in a movement scape. At times the dancers’ shadow cast an enlarged shape on Minogue’s image but her visual impact is not diminished by this intrusion and in some ways compliments the action. Is it a bacchanal because, after all, Aphrodite is the goddess of love and therefore revelry is the metaphor to be applied here?

The dynami,c oddly, has hardly escalated and now there are fourteen dancers on stage. The beginning entanglement of the first three dancers becomes the viewer’s entrapment but it seems some of these dancers do not know the power they have. I believe there is another layer in this dance that needs to be discovered by the dancers’ performance that will take a bit of time to accomplish. The dancers’ movement as well as their postures has to seem bigger than Minogue’s if not individually as a group.

Minogue’s postures look back at you; there is vulnerability and also a sense that she knows where and what her power is. There is that slight bit of poutiness but there is also something alluring about how she stands then is shown laying. At one point while standing her hands move from her diaphragm softly pointing gently down to below her navel; sexual, sensual, provocative.

All the while the dancers are twisting around, flinging legs, raping around each other being dragged from one side of the stage to the other, tossed in the air enveloping in same sex and opposite sex duets or trios or solos in this or that corner. The movement is crafted and its manner distinct. If it is bacchanal it is controlled, sedate even. Just when one would have thought the dynamic of the movement would have changed with the changing of the light to red, it coasted along on the same level, becoming more tangled in itself. Minogue though remained the rapturous image.

For another perspective on this performance, read Cassandra's review.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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