Rambert’s Ghost Dances Retains its Popularity

25/11/2016

Rambert Tour 2016 – Tomorrow, Frames, Ghost DancesEdinburgh Festival Theatre, Edinburgh. 24.12.2016. (SRT)

Ghost Dances. Photo credit: Anthony Crickmay.

Ghost Dances (c) Anthony Crickmay

Tomorrow:
Choreography – Lucy Guerin
Music – Scanner
Lighting – Lee Curran

Frames:
Choreography – Alexander Whitley
Music – Daníel Bjarnason
Lighting – Lee Curran

Ghost Dances:
Choreography – Christopher Bruce
Music – arranged by Nicholas Mojsiejenko
Lighting – Nick Chelton
Set – Christopher Bruce

Ghost Dances was created for Rambert back in 1981.  Since then, according to the company’s Artistic Director, it has become the most requested work in their back catalogue.  This is their first revival of it in thirteen years and, in my first encounter with it, it’s easy to see why it has been so popular.

Chroeographer Christopher Bruce was inspired by South America’s traditional Day of the Dead.  Three skeletal figures brood on an empty stage before interacting with a crowd of civilians, picking them off for death one by one.  If that synopsis sounds morbid, however, then the piece is anything but.  Death comes to us all, after all, and every couple or group on stage is given a joyous celebration of life before they are taken away.  I enjoyed the touching love duet and solo scenes, but the ebullient ensemble with the jagged rag-doll dancing made me chuckle with pleasure; and the death that claimed them felt like a satisfying full stop rather than a tragic cutting short.  The airy Latin American score helped, too, evoking a different culture that nevertheless housed people who shared the same emotions as us.

One of the reasons why Rambert have waited so long to revive Ghost Dances must, surely, be because they want to encourage new work rather than rest too long on their laurels.  It’s a shame, then, that the companion pieces tonight weren’t as satisfying.  Lucy Guerin’s Tomorrow was the better of the two.  Based on the story of Macbeth, it divides the bare stage in two, showing two worlds that coexist but are kept rigidly separate.  On one side seven black-clad dancers act out the story of the play, while on the other seven wild figures dressed in dirty white dance the witches.  The witches’ mechanistic jarrings contrast with the everyday mime of the actors, who kill with easy banality while ignoring what is happening on the other side of the stage.  I liked the contrast of worlds: it gave power to the storytelling and it gave the eye time to get used to the bifurcated stage picture.  One of the quirks of Guerin’s design is that the story of the play is told backwards which, while it only works if you know the play, makes the climax of the dance piece Macbeth’s first/final meeting with the three witches, the only time he acknowledges their presence.

Frames didn’t speak to me at all, however.  Fourteen dancers play with metal bars and construct different shapes with them, weaving in and out of one another and creating patterns both on the floor and in the air.  It’s meant to be a reflection on how a production is put together, including the physical objects involved, and there is a brief parody of a ballet class in there.  For me the props just got in the way, however, turning lazy when the dancers began to copy the shapes of the objects, and when they switched on the spotlights on the frames it felt like half-baked motion capture.  Far better were the moments when the dancers were left to get on with it themselves, especially the moments where one man danced with a metal bar, which proved strangely hypnotic; much more so than the noisy flat-pack that cluttered the rest.  Daníel Bjarnason’s music promised a lot but the dance never delivered.

Simon Thompson

The Rambert tour continues until May 2017.  For full details click here.

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s Extended 2017 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2017-18 Barbican Classical Music Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Coming Soon in February: The Fifth Ealing Music & Film Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Siegfried comes to Saffron Walden __________________________________
  • NEW! Symphonic Soundscapes: Cadogan Hall and RPO Announce Exclusive Collaboration with Digital App Octava __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2017 Aldeburgh Festival is from 9 to 25 June __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet presents Mary Skeaping’s Giselle at the London Coliseum from 11 – 22 January 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Grange Festival’s First Season in June and July 2017 __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Buenos Aires 2017 With a Focus On Co-productions __________________________________
  • NEW! Preview of the 2017 Chipping Campden Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! Investec Opera Holland Park’s Casts for the 2017 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! THE SOPRANO ELISABETH MEISTER: FIGHTING BACK FROM WHAT LIFE THROWS AT YOU AND INSPIRING OTHERS __________________________________
  • NEW! REVIEWERS OF SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL PICK THEIR BEST OF 2016 __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Göran Forsling’s Opera Update from Helsinki and Stockholm __________________________________
  • NEW! Budapest’s Chamber Music Festival Provides a Glimpse of Not Only an Existential But Also a Political Utopia __________________________________
  • NEW! The Mastersingers Celebrate Wagner Past and Present with the Rehearsal Orchestra __________________________________
  • NEW! MARTYN BRABBINS IS ENGLISH NATIONAL OPERA’S NEW MUSIC DIRECTOR __________________________________
  • NEW! MONICA HUGGETT IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! Movers Makers Musicians Mingle Part Two __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H