Rambert Dance Company Sadlers Wells Tues 21 May 2002
For the second time within a week, a world premiere of a new dance work in London features very complex sets and designs which are progressively stripped from the stage as the dance proceeds. Wheeldonís Tryst for the Royal Ballet had giant side panels which eventually floated away: now Glenn Wilkinsonís Tree Finger Soup for Rambert is staged before a series of drops which confine the dance area and are one by one revealed to change the mood and increase or decrease the dance space..Odd how these concepts coincide: must be something in the air.
Tree Finger Soup is a much more ambitious work than any of Wilkinsonís previous works. Itís the closing work on Rambert's second programme at Sadlers. Three huge convex mirrors sit first behind and then tilted above the dancers, reflecting distorted views of their bodies. Design is by Bruce French. Here the different backdrops are associated with different moods: a square patterned screen had a slightly Japanese mood which seemed echoed in the music. Towards the close the back wall sweeps forward, as if to push the dancers into the stalls. Ultimately, the design may have rather overwhelmed the dance Ė though the eight dancers performed with Rambertís customary zest and commitment.
Wayne MacGregorís detritus, commissioned by Rambert last year opens the bill. Moving scenery is a feature here too, with a huge and rather sinister insectoid limb above the stage which periodically moves down to cut up the space or flex itself. Unusually for Rambert, this features some of the dancers in pointe shoes for some passages, though it would be wrong to describe MacGregor as a ballet choreographer. He seems less interested in classical steps (though there are a few in the mix) than in the possibilities that the pointe shoe gives for speed of turns and the satisfying way it can extend the line of the leg.
Itís a well organised and structured work, with MacGregor somehow managing to give the impression that he has a cast of at least 30 or so when in fact its only 13 Ė they wheel and regroup so fast and frequently. Special mentions here to Rafael Bonachela and Paul Liburd who manipulate Ana Lujan Sanchez through an intricate series of lifts and poses. The most satisfying section is the fastest, to an intensely percussive section of the score where the vibrant red of the dancers streaming across the stage in wave after wave almost seems to make the air vibrate. It was a popular piece.
Kylianís Symphony of Psalms doesnít have anything clever or fussy about the staging, just a couple of rows of chairs. Rambert have been dancing this for some time now and are fully under the skin of the work. It was a pleasure to have live music (Stravinsky) to this in contrast with the other works. The emotional weight of the piece and its evocation of intense feeling also differed strikingly from the cool detached and sometimes fierce mood of the other works. Interestingly, although this was a well danced performance (and well performed by London Musici and choir) it didnít register as clearly with many of the audience. The final section, with the couplesí long slow retreat into darkness at the back of the stage was still as touching as before: but a young and noisy (though by no means large) audience seemed to prefer the newer and more frenetic works.