Rambert’s Most Successful Triple Bill in Three Years

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Kats-Chernin, Schoenberg, Rolling Stones,  Love, Art & Rock’n’Roll: Rambert, Rambert Orchestra / Paul Hoskins (director), Sadler’s Wells, London, 3.11.2015. (J.O’D)

A scene from Rooster by Christopher Bruce and Rambert Dance Company @ New Vic Theatre, Woking (Taken 5-02-14) ©Tristram Kenton 02/14 (3 Raveley Street, LONDON NW5 2HX TEL 0207 267 5550  Mob 07973 617 355)email: tristram@tristramkenton.com
A scene from Rooster by Christopher Bruce
Adam Blyde and Miguel Altunaga ©Tristram Kenton

The 3 Dancers

Dancers – Miguel Altunaga, Daniel Davidson, Brenda Lee Grech, Dane Hurst, Liam Francis, Simone Damberg Würtz


Choreography: Didy Veldman
Music: Elena Kats-Chernin
Design: Kimie Nakano
Lighting design: Ben Ormerod 

Transfigured Night

Dancers – Luke Ahmet, Miguel Altunaga, Lucy Balfour, Joshua Barwick, Carolyn Bolton, Simone Damberg Würtz, Daniel Davidson, Edit Domoszlai, Brenda Lee Grech, Antonia Hewitt, Dane Hurst, Vanessa Kang, Mark Kimmett, Patricia Okenwa, Adam Park, Stephen Quildan, Hannah Rudd, Kym Sojourna, Pierre Tappon, Stephen Wright


Choreography: Kim Brandstrup
Music: Arnold Schoenberg
Design: Chloe Lamford
Lighting design: Fabiana Piccioli


Dancers – Miguel Altunaga, Lucy Balfour, Daniel Davidson, Julia Gillespie, Pierre Tappon, Simone Damberg Würtz, Dane Hurst, Hannah Rudd, Stephen Wright, Vanessa Kang


Choreography: Christopher Bruce
Music: Songs recorded by The Rolling Stones
Costume design: Marian Bruce
Lighting design: Tina MacHugh

If Didy Veldman’s The 3 Dancers (2015) starts promisingly then falters, Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night (2015) compels from beginning to end. Restaged and performed after a thirteen-year gap as recently as last May, Christopher Bruce’s Rooster (1991) shows that on a different programme and with an altered set of dancers, the same work can have quite different effect. On this programme, it shines. Taken all round, their triple bill inspired by Picasso, Schoenberg and the Rolling Stones is probably the most successful that Rambert have brought to Sadler’s Wells in the last three years.

An attempt, says its choreographer (and former dancer with the company), to ‘apply Cubism to movement and choreographic structure’, The 3 Dancers is strongly oppositional: the black and white of its design; the forces that push its dancers together and pull them apart; the forces that cause their arms and legs to shoot out, at all times, like tangents. Danced by a group of six (three dancers in black, three in white), it divides into duets, trios, and quartets. Yet the movement, of which there is too much, is all on one note. The stage becomes cluttered by giant shards of broken mirror that descend from the flies. Only in the opening section, when three of its dancers crystallise for a moment as the dancers of the Picasso painting, does the piece really capture the attention.

Schoenberg’s string sextet, Verklärte Nacht, takes its title from a poem in which a young woman confesses to her lover that she is pregnant by another man. After they have spent a night walking in a forest, the lover reassures the woman of his love for her and for the child she will have. Transfigured Night, according to Kim Brandstrup in the programme note, ‘borrows only the idea of a devastating disclosure from the original narrative’. The piece begins in half-light, with the woman (Simone Damberg Würtz) lying on the floor. The lover (Miguel Altunaga) stands at some distance from her. Between them, but at the back of the stage, a close-knit group of darkly clad dancers rises and falls like an emanation from the couple’s troubled consciousness. In a fine example of ensemble dancing by the Rambert dancers, this group will reappear at significant moments throughout the piece.

The work of a choreographer who was a student of film before he became a student of dance, Transfigured Night is cinematic in its use of costume (the woman’s scarlet sheath, the man’s ochre shirt), light, shadow, space and stillness. The 3 Dancers was perpetual motion. Here there are moments when Damberg Würtz can only look at the immobile back that Altunaga presents to her. They are moments in which Schoenberg’s music is allowed to speak for itself. When movement occurs, it is often instigated by the woman. Damberg Würtz lifts Altunaga; she takes hold of an outstretched ankle to make his body revolve. So intense is the atmosphere of the piece that when both dancers breathe out sharply at the same time during a move, the whole audience seems struck by it.

The happy ending of the original poem is only for the white-dressed couple of the woman’s imagination. Hannah Rudd and Dane Hurst dance these alter egos with the flowing gestures that their ‘real’ selves are denied. But while the man is never going to perform handstands with the lightness of his imaginary counterpart, Miguel Altunaga’s arms are gradually held less rigidly at his sides. His limbs begin to move more freely. With this movement, there is hope.

Christopher Bruce, the biographical note in the programme tells us, ‘is recognized as the last major choreographer to have been nurtured by Marie Rambert’. In Rooster he looks back to the 1960s of his youth through the songs of the Rolling Stones. The men dance from the hip, while forever adjusting the knot in their ties. The women deal with them. Moments of lyricism are mixed in with the fun.

Hannah Rudd dances the ‘Ruby Tuesday’ solo performed last year by Antonette Dayrit (to applause). Pierre Tappon is at an exuberant best to ‘Not Fade Away’. Stephen Wright and Vanessa Kang sound the nuances of ‘Play with Fire’. Daniel Davidson, the Mercutio who buzzed like a fly around the Tybalt of Scottish Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet in 2014, is clear in every movement. Julia Gillespie shows musicality and disdain. Cheers for the women were followed by cheers for the men, with an extra cheer (like last time) for Miguel Altunaga.

John O’Dwyer

Leave a Comment