Constant Lambert Tribute, Clore Studio, 8/4/01
Sundayís event at the Clore studio was a interesting mix of music, dance, discussion and reminiscence concerning Constant Lambert, the Royal Balletís founding music director. It was an interesting and enlightening evening - and it was a free event. This isnít a review, exactly - it was an informal event - more an account of the evening - demand for tickets was considerable and the event Ďsold outí (if a free event can sell out) some time ago, on the basis of very little publicity.
Itís pleasing that the Royal are celebrating Lambert (he died 50 years ago), but you canít help but reflect that two free performances for such a significant figure in the creation of the company is perhaps a little muted for a celebration, given the level of tribute currently being extended to Anthony Dowell as he retires as the current Artistic Director (exhibitions, costumes on display, the gala etc etc). But all credit to Deborah Bull who runs the Artistís Development Initiative for organising something.
The evening was introduced by David Owen Norris, who contributed a number of Lambert anecdotes, not all of which are repeatable. The aim was to show a little of Lambertís different interests: as a composer, including work specifically for dance, and his interest in narration (he narrated the Sitwellís text for Facade). The evening opened with two songs for soprano, flute and harp. There were then three dance items created for the occasion, to Lambertís music. Some of these would have benefited from more sophisticated lighting than can be achieved in the Clore - but this is a minor quibble.
The first work was Cathy Marstonís Three Words Unspoken to ĎTrois pieces negres pour les touches blancsí, set on Tamara Rojo, who looked as impressive as ever, and Brian Maloney, who is I think a relatively new joiner to the RB. Iíd certainly like to hear more about him, if anyone has details - he partnered Tamara with aplomb through some typically tricky lifts. The duet seemed a familiar story of pent up frustration, attraction and nervousness between the couple that seemed only tentatively resolved. It seemed a very dark piece in every sense - rather too dimly lit to appreciate some of the finer points, though.
Gone Tomorrow was an interesting mix. It was made by Matthew Hawkins, ex RB who has led his own contemporary group for some time. The dancers were a mixture of Hawkins own dancers (himself, Franziska Rosenweig, Yalckun Abdurehim) and RB dancers. It offered an interesting mix of body types, ages and training. The music was the Salome Suite: but the relationship to the music didnít seem that strong, and some of the more interesting sections were performed in silence. This seemed like an experiment which hadnít quite come off - one day Iíd like to see an interesting and contrasted use of modern and ballet dancers in the same work, but I donít think that was the aim here. Hawkins is a very watchable dancer, and my eye kept being drawn to him whenever he appeared.
The last work was light, charming, and very popular with the audience: this was Tuckettís Mr Bear-squash-you-all-flat, a ballet based on a Russian fairy story with narration by Terry Edwards, the ROH chorus master. He is about seven feet tall, and all the dancers looked convincingly childlike next to him. It was very straightforward, easy to follow story with strongly delineated animal characters (Luke Heydon as a frog: Laura Morera as a mouse; Cervera as a duck). It was somewhat reminiscent of the Peter and the Wolf created for the RBS some years back. Tuckett in the later discussion admitted he had Ďcome something of a cropperí with attempting to tell very complex narratives on stage, and he was pleased to have Lambertís structure to work within. It was funny and very engaging, with nice opportunities for all the dancers: the style was more like Tuckettís earlier Celtic piece for Dance bites - no pointe shoes, and a sweetly innocent air.
The discussion that followed gave some of the audience, including Pamela May and others, the opportunity to provide memories of working with Lambert. The choreographers joined Deborah Bull to answer questions about the eveningís works. It was a pleasant and relaxed discussion: Deborah Bull underlined the fact that the ADI at the Clore was intended to provide a chance to experiment and if necessary to fail : we might see things there that we perhaps didnít like, but she hoped we would keep returning to see other new works. The evening got a very positive response: there are further ADI events at the Clore later this month (Duo:logue) and in May - I have a feeling these may have limited availability. But itís either free or very modestly priced, and a great chance to see some interesting dancers up close.