Some rather belated notes about Rambert's second programme at Sadlers Wells last Wednesday, which took the form of a meaty mixed bill. For me, the meat was Glen Tetley's Pierrot Lunaire, but with works by Alston and Siobhan Davies also on the programme, the rest could hardly be described as mere 'filling'.
The programme opened with the world premiere of 'Unrest' by Richard Alston, danced to Arvo Pärt's 'Fratres'. Six dancers moved gently in and out of Alston's deceptively simple-looking steps. Half lifts and leapfrogging squats sometimes resembled playground games, sometimes courtly dances, but the immaculate structure and subtle patterns of the piece were always clear. The puzzle was that title; why 'Unrest'? The choreography suggested calm control rather than anything else. The dancers looked marvellous in the piece and were flattered by Jeanne Spaziani elegant black, cream and grey costumes. Speaking of the dancers, this must have been one of the last professional appearances of Elizabeth Old, who is shortly to retire. She has been dancing for the Rambert on-and-off since the mid 80s and was always a favoured choice of choreographers working with the company. She will be missed.
Siobhan Davies' reworked 'Soundings' to a cool Balinese-sounding score by Giacinto Scelsi came next and some of its patterns initially reminded me of the Alston piece, the resemblance compounded by the fact that this piece too used six dancers. It would have been better, I think to separate these two items on the programme However, Davies seems a less 'weighty' choreographer than Alston and her piece was airly light and creamy yet the movement was all of a piece and had emotional resonance. There is, though, a certain 'sameness' in all of her work - and in Alston's - that can't be ignored (but perhaps this could be said of all contemporary choreographers).
The centrepiece of the mixed bill was Glen Tetley's 40 year-old 'Pierrot Lunaire' to Schoenberg's score, which was powerfully sung by Linda Hirst. I didn't buy the programme (being a skinflint) so I do not know if a translation of the German words was provided, but if not, what a pity.
The first time I saw this piece - last Rambert season? - I was moved by it; this time, I saw the comedy more clearly. Martin Lindinger danced the soul-tugging Pierrot figure, a mixture of Punch, Petrushka and Harlequin with his white clown face and sad mouth, Deirdre Chapman was his naughty girlfriend and Branden Faulls was the bad guy. They were all superb, but I particularly loved the skittish Deirdre Chapman - Punch's Judy with attitude. I don't think you need to know the story, but perhaps if one had understood the words of the song it might have been clear why the dancers were climbing all over Rouben Ter-Arutunian's white scaffolding set. (Incidentally, I believe Nureyev danced Pierrot once. It would have been fascinating to see what he made of the role).
Wayne McGregor's 'detritus' wound up the evening, and I wish could be enthusiastic about it. The truth is I found it only occasionally interesting and thought it suffered too much in comparison to Forsyth's work, which was clearly a major influence. In fact, the opening was startlingly similar to 'In the Middle', music and all. McGregor has done better and will do better, especially now he has a permanent home at Sadlers Wells. Mention has to be made of the dancers here; Paul Liburd was as usual superb, and Rafael Bonachela and Ana Sanchez hardly less so
Incidentally, it was a very glamorous evening. While having interval drinks I spotted Alan Rickman among the celebs (I've seen him at other dance events too, he's obviously a fan). And of course, with the sun flooding in through the glass walls, the refurbished Wells was at its best.