Rambert open their two weeks at Sadlerís with a sharply contrasting double bill. The programme concludes with a revival of Bruceís Sergeant Earlyís Dream - light, tuneful, good humoured, affectionate. It couldnít be more different than the Mats Ek work, She Was Black, which opens proceedings. This seemed to have a dark and pessimistic view of human relationships. Or at least I think so. There wasnít anything as obvious as a narrative, but the stage seemed inhabited at least sometimes by real, identfiable people, with messy, sometimes nasty, and usually conflicting emotions. It wasnít easy to absorb on a first viewing, and at the end I wasnít sure if Iíd enjoyed it or not. It was intriguing but Iím not sure it managed to get across everything it set out to.
Although Ekís work has been seen in Britain, both on tv and on stage (it was heavily featured in the Edinburgh Festival in 1999) this is the first work by Ek to be staged by a British company. Rambertís dancers have to be a very flexible and adaptable bunch, given the variety of their repertoire. This work is often very fast and frenetic: sometimes the movement seems almost self consciously ugly, or quite childishly rude (miming of wiping of bottoms etc.). The full depth of the stage is used: the set is simple but effective, with a surreal staircase going nowhere.
The dancers, including familiar Rambert favourites such as Glenn Wilkinson and Conor OíBrien manage to look remarkably good in it none the less. Vincent Redmon gets the short straw: first he makes a brief appearance in the nude, and then gets to wander about the stage on pointe for the rest of the performance. This seems quite unconnected with the most gripping parts of the work, the encounters between Paul Liburd and Deirdre Chapman, and later Rachel Poirier and Branden Faulls. Quite what is going on Iím not sure, but it seems a bleak view of interaction between the sexes - attraction, repulsion, abandonment, manipulation. While the couples are thrashing out their differences a body encased in a brown sack wriggles slug-like across the floor inn the background. At the end, the slug escapes for a final frenetic or ecstatic solo.
The audience, including a large number of teenagers, loved it to bits. I admired the dancers very much, particularly the two couples, but Iím still uncertain about the work itself. Memorable though.
Sergeant Earlís Dream, made in 1984, was much easier going. This is set to a series of English, Irish and American folk music and songs, performed live by six musicians at the back of the stage. The dance is a series of short episodes, most, but not all of which are narratives. Sometimes these seemed slightly too literal interpretations of the words of the song, for example in Barbara Allan: perhaps it was seeing Ekís enigma first, but this did seem slightly too obvious. Other episodes are enormous fun, particularly an entertaining drunk scene for the men.
The dance vocabulary seems typically Bruce, with more folk inflections than usual added. The dancers seemed to be having a great time. Itís a feelgood work, and a pleasant way to end the programme.