Rambert, ‘Dark Arteries,’ ‘The Three Dancers,’ ‘Terra Incognito’ at The Lowry, September 30 2015
A word of warning: ever since I saw Mark Baldwin’s ‘Eternal Light’ aged 15, I have dreamt of being in the Rambert. There was just something about the so cleverly choreographed and very balletic Contemporary dance, with the huge side of emotion from the dancers, which grabbed me then and never left.
So when I say that I felt utterly let down by Mark Baldwin’s ‘Dark Arteries’, the opening dance to the evening’s trilogy, my thoughts might be slightly strong. Too abstract yet not abstract enough, it was like a series of moving tableaus that didn’t join up and lacked in spark. The first five minutes could have been cut at no loss to the overall piece. It picked up slightly with a floor partner work section but came crashing back down with a ‘Liberty Leading the People’-esque group movement that, whilst certainly embodying the uprising of the Miners’ Strike, was almost laughable. Don’t get me wrong, it was danced impeccably (it always is) but the choreography was disappointing, almost stale. The music was the redeeming feature: the Fairey Brass Band did give off an amazingly ethereal feel, almost space-like. Unfortunately, there were times when I did wonder whether I would have preferred to just watch them perform and left the dance to one side. Maybe I was expecting too much from it but I do hope Mark Baldwin’s next work is more reminiscent of his earlier pieces.
In comparison, the second piece ‘The Three Dancers’ reminded me exactly why I had fallen in love with the Rambert, with every little detail though out to the last. Choreographed by Didy Veldman and taking inspiration from Picasso’s masterpiece, it comprised of six dancers playing with the themes of entanglement and shadow. The simple costumes of three dancers dressed in white and the other three in black worked incredibly well, aiding the conception of the shadows manipulating the moves. The fragmented Cubist feel was enhanced by the scenery, with huge shards of translucent Perspex lowered throughout the performance to physically and visually break up the dancers’ moves. Elena Kats-Chernin’s score was in parts reminiscent of a tango, the ultimate dance of simultaneous control and frustration, which bought the feud-filled history of the painting to the stage. The most memorable section of the dance was undoubtedly the puppetry duet; a concept normally clichéd and very hard to successfully execute, this one was a complete reimaging with palpable tension. ‘The Three Dancers’ was, by far, the highlight of the trio.
The final work of the evening was Shobana Jeyasingh’s ‘Terra Incognito’, a piece inspired by the early exploration of the world. The moving blue scenery was a perfect backdrop for the theme, suggesting vast expanses of unpredictable water. Gabriel Prokofiev’s music gave the work a frantic stress which the dancers mirrored with impressively fast foot and floor work. The high point was when the almost hysterical movement was broken up by a single dancer running to the very edge of that stage and executing a perfectly slow grand plié. This brave moment heralded the calm after the storm, although the final section rapidly became hectic again. I left feeling stressed by the final piece, disappointed by the first and uplifted by the second; an evening of three halves.