Rambert: Ghost Dances

Rambert, one of Britain’s most respected dance companies, has just finished its stint at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh on its UK wide tour. Celebrating Rambert’s 90th year the company has commissioned five new pieces and brought back Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances. As artistic director Mark Baldwin comments this is one of the company’s most popular pieces, incredibly moving it is a timeless piece that will always thrill the audience.


First was Tomorrow, choreographed by Lucy Guerin, is based on Macbeth. In 2015 she had worked with Carrie Cracknell on a production of Macbeth that combined theatre and dance, as a result she was approached by Rambert to create Tomorrow. Guerin aimed to split the story from the images and senses created through characters such as the witches. It was interesting to watch this type of duality on stage but at times the stage was too busy and it was difficult to decide which dancers to watch. The lighting was key in this piece to aiding the separation between the play and movements, with a fantastic drop down bar filled with LED strips. The cast was incredibly talented but I found personally it was not enough to lift the heavy choreography that didn’t seem to flow smoothly on stage.


Secondly they performed Frames. Interesting in its aim to make the dancers take part in theatre construction and we watch as shapes begin to emerge and the dancers contort to perfectly meet the lines they create with the metal poles. Perhaps one of the most abstract contemporary dances I’ve seen it was beautiful to watch such control from the dancers on stage. More compelling to watch than Tomorrow, Andrew Whitley’s piece changes the way dance is approached to try and lend a permanence to dance.


However, easily stealing the show, is Ghost Dances. Choreographed by Christopher Bruce it has been one of the most requested dances from the company’s back catalogue. It absorbs many cultural influences from Latin America and was inspired by Joan Jara’s book, An Unfinished Song, paired with South American folk music. It explores the Day of the Dead and looks into the way the dead were celebrated. Particularly fascinating is the idea that the dead were cremated and made into a soup to be ingested by the tribe members. In the dance the ghost dancers with the ornate and realistic masks experience the dead and their stories. The dead are living on in those who are alive and it is enchanting to watch on stage. All the different dancers have a story and a specific choreography which gives them real characters brought to life on stage. Undoubtedly the favourites were the three ghost dancers, Daniel Davidson, Liam Francis and Juan Gil, who excelled on stage and whose stage presences were phenomenal. The piece is so fantastic and realistic that it is incredible it has not been taken out for 13 years!


As always Rambert provides an incredible evening of dance and I would return in the blink of an eye to see Ghost Dances once more.

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