Rambert: Dark Arteries

Rambert is one of a select few dance companies that can call itself ‘Britain’s National Dance Company’. They aim to perform their world class works in all areas of the country in order to really embrace what being a national dance company is about. It is fantastic to see dance of this calibre journeying around the country exposing communities to high quality performances.

The music Rambert uses for its dances, varies from old classics to new original music commissioned for the company’s latest works. Their most well-known piece, Rooster, used the Rolling Stones songs to present the choreographer’s take on the 1960s and became one of the most iconic dances to be associated with the company. The three dances they performed on the 27th November at the Festival Theatre were Transfigured Night, The 3 Dancers and their newest piece Dark Arteries (in reverse performance order).

Dark Arteries premiered in London in May this year and is choreographed by Mark Baldwin. Looking into shifts in dynamics and energies portrayed by dance through the music Baldwin used Gavin Higgins music for this visually stunning piece. Although largely an ensemble piece Miguel Altunaga (as throughout the whole evening) was exceptional, as was his duet partner Carolyn Bolton. Their movements were seamless, flowing to the crescendos in the music and subsiding back into the supportive arms of the ensemble for the finishing reserved hymn-like ending. The one thing that held back Dark Arteries was the music in that it built and built until it reached its climax in the middle of the score and then continued but at a very subdued pace which was a little at odds with the increasingly complex and stunning choreography.

The 3 Dancers was the most visually stunning dance of the evening. Inspired by Picasso’s painting ‘The Three Dancers’, the music written by Elena Kats-Chernin captured the essence of the painting perfectly whilst the choreography by former Rambert dancer Didy Veldman somehow managed to turn Cubism into movement. The six dancers (Miguel Altunaga, Daniel Davidson, Brenda Lee Gerch, Dane Hurst, Liam Francis, Simone Damberg Wurtz) were just captivating. One section where one of the white costumed dancers was ‘captured’ by the darker costumed dancers and forced, like a living puppet, to perform movements as he orchestrated and directed him was just beautiful. Also the addition of triangular plexi-glass sheets that were flown down from the stages ceiling in parts of the dance was innovative as it reinforced the Cubism aspect and the idea of multiple perspectives within the dance itself. The whole dance matched the music to perfection and was just hypnotising to watch.

The evening finished with Transfigured Night, one of the only other pieces in their repertoire at the moment featuring old music – ‘Verklarte Nacht’ in this case. The choreography for this dance was hopelessly sad but still romantic. Based on the poem by Richard Dehmel, it loosely tells the story of a woman who has told her lover she is pregnant with another man’s child. The man agrees to look after it and love it like his own, but the choreography cleverly tells three different scenarios – a frightened section filled with the fear of being abandoned, a second section exploring the idealised dream of acceptance and forgiveness (where two young versions of the duet dancers appear on stage and perform their past), and a third which is more realistic and as inconclusive as life is in reality. Again Miguel Altunaga excels as one of the main performers, the audience is fixated on his every movement as he commands the stage. His partner on stage Simone Damberg Wurtz is similarly commanding and demands the sympathy and empathy of the audience as the frightened woman.

Rambert’s repertoire was just incredible, it was impossible to watch the dances and not take something away, whether it be seeing some part of your life portrayed on stage or just empathising with the characters. They are a must-see.

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