Rambert Dance Company, Spring & Summer Tour 2000
Oxford Apollo Theatre, Box Office 0870 606 3502
Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain/Pierrot Lunaire/Ghost Dances
It was evening of "firsts" for myself and for the Oxford audiences as Rambert Dance Company opened Wednesday night to an enthusiastic, albeit not full, house.
The Glen Tetley pieces were the Oxford premieres in question. Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain (1968) is a set of variations on the theme of T'ai Chi moves number 17, hence the embrace tiger and return to mountain of the title. The ten dancers started the piece by beautifully demonstrating these steps in complete silence, before moving onto individual variations as the electronic score of Morton Subotnik kicked in. The mirrored floor added another dimension to the movement by reflecting the dancers in their bright orange costumes. The rest of the choreography used the basic moves throughout, but integrated into the unmistakable Tetley language. The two successive pas de deux in particular explored the various bodies intertwining and floor rolls the choreographer is so keen on. I think these two aspects were perhaps more fully explored in later Tetley pieces since those pas de deux were strangely reminiscent of both Sphinx and Field Figures. Although the electronic accompaniment wasn't the most agreeable to my ears, the combination with the movement was almost hypnotic and I found it difficult not to watch, although I wouldn't rate this piece as engrossing as my personal favorite Sphinx.
Pierrot Lunaire (1962) probably holds a special place in the heart of Artistic Director Christopher Bruce, as it was through Pierrot that he achieved recognition of both his technical and dramatic skills. I would think that dancer Conor O'Brien should feel the same. This dancer combines a beautiful technique and body with dramatic skills that were used to great effect when he danced the Poet in Cruel Garden in Oxford back in May 1998 and again last night as Pierrot. Again, the musical basis for the piece was not the easiest to grasp and the Schönberg songs would have been more accessible had the text of the 21 brief poems been in the program for the benefit of us German illiterates (although the poems are themselves translated from the French). However, the dancing from both Branden Falls as Brighella and Deirdre Chapman as Columbine was excellent, the audience picked up the humorous moments and the scaffolding held up.
Ghost Dances (1981) concluded the program and went by much too quickly. I can't think of a more contrasting piece to the preceding ones, both musically and in choreographic vocabulary. Much has been written about Ghost Dances, but it must be said again that Christopher Bruce provides another sample of how his beautifully fluid choreography illustrates the human tragedy behind death. The steps seemed to flow out of the South American music oddly enough. The ominous presence of the three ghosts throughout the dancing was so much more effective a device than having them leap out onstage to select a victim; it emphasized that people live with death everyday as it can strike at anyone without warning. The lighting design was very effective in focusing the attention to action. The dancing of Rafael Bonachela, first in a solo and then with three women, was simply magnificent, I've rarely seen such musicality in a dancer. The final solo by a widow-like figure leaving the shadows as she sheds her shroud was very moving in its simple and repetitive motif. This motif provided the basis for the final ensemble before the group finally moved off stage and left the ghost figures behind, perhaps showing that life does go on.
These works will be repeated at the last tour stop, Sadler's Wells from 31st May-10th June