AYT Review: Love, Art & Rock ‘N’ Roll

AYT Review: Love, Art & Rock ‘N’ Roll

Originally published on A Younger Theatre


The title of this particular showcase sounds like a mantra that many creative visionaries have pledged to live their lives by. As Britain’s oldest dance company, it is not out of place in describing Rambert itself; the dancers clearly love what they do, seek to bring out the artistic merit in each of the works and do so with a contemporary flair and edge. All three pieces are inspired by art, either paintings or pieces of music that resonate somehow with the choreographers. Each then seeks to communicate and convey their interpretation of these works through the dance. It is the love of the art that has fostered and nurtured this showcase, which ultimately is the best tribute to the founding art pieces themselves.

Didy Veldman’s The Three Dancers is a collaboration with composer Elena Kats-Chernin, who creates an original score in order to best fit with the painting of the same name. Its artist Picasso was also a fan of dance and frequently contributed a number of designs to the Ballets Russes during Serge Diaghilev’s founding years. Veldman takes inspiration from the figures holding hands and translates them into an insistent interlinking interaction between groups of three dancers. The first group, clad in white, are seen taking a series of statuesque poses with fluid transitions between each. Once a pose is set upon, a mirroring group of dancers pick up the movement and continue that same fluidity into the next pose. The complementary dancers, dressed entirely in black, act as imagery for Picasso’s use of light and shade in his works.

As the piece progresses, there is a slow and deliberate interaction between groups of dancers – a synergy whereby the two previously separate colours mix. The groups of dancers break off into duets with varying degrees of success – two male dancers (Daniel Davidson and Liam Francis) provide a new dimension through their puppet-puppeteer interaction, and Miguel Altunaga and Brenda Lee Grech interact with an expressive extension of the other’s movements. But the overall feeling in the piece is confused. As the music swells the dancers seem to slow down and vice versa, a contradiction here in a piece that tries to embrace its fluidity. The variety in a piece of this length is also lacking.

Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night is an interpretation of one of Arnold Schoenberg’s earlier works. ‘Verklärte Nacht’ is itself based on Richard Dehmel’s narrative poem in which a woman confesses to her lover that she is pregnant with another man’s child. In this piece, Brandstrup divides the lovers’ interactions into three – the confession, the dream of forgiveness and the compromise of acceptance. The pairing of Altunaga with Simone Damburg Würtz is emotive and expressive; furtive touches between these two in the first section indicate the feelings of betrayal and loss of trust. However it is the ensemble that colours the overall picture. Representing the inner emotion of the lovers, they can convey the thoughts lurking under the surface, the turbulence under a calm façade that sweeps Würtz away whenever she tries to be close to her lover. The second section substitutes Hannah Rudd and Dane Hurst in – as younger, more naïve versions of their counterparts they interact with childlike animalism, nudging and purring at each other without the reality of the situation clouding their views.

The best in show was unreservedly left for last. With a track record of over 25 years, Christopher Bruce’s Rooster has earned its place in the annals of iconic contemporary dance. Set to a portion of The Rolling Stones extensive back-catalogue, each one of the dancers suddenly transcends above the earlier pieces with vigour and energy from their first movements. Altunaga takes centre stage here, from his first strut onto stage to fix his tie before a pounce into the trademark rooster pose. ‘Lady Jane’ takes inspiration from a court dance with incredibly modern twists and ‘As Tears Go By’ exhibits the awkward emotions of teenagers trying to simultaneously impress and intimidate the opposite sex. Hurst gives his performance of the night during ‘Paint It Black’ with an incredible connection to the music, pulsing and driving him onwards relentlessly; ‘Ruby Tuesday’ sees Rudd in a floaty, seductive red dress effortlessly gliding around the stage before a climactic finale with an explosive ensemble during ‘Sympathy for the Devil.’

The fact that art can so effortlessly breed art is itself inspiring. It’s the reason that the creators explore when bringing a new work to life. Be it still art, visual, dance or music, the beauty of the creation is the questions it asks, the opinions it forms and the doors it open to new thoughts and new works. Rambert are a wonderful example of actively engaging and continuing this process, so long may it continue.

Love, Art & Rock ‘N’ Roll is playing Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 7 November 2015. For more information and tickets, see the Sadler’s Wells website. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

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