Rambert's second programme at Sadlers's Wells, a triple bill, made an enjoyable and well-balanced evening.
The opener was Merce Cunningham's 'Beach Birds' to John Cage's hardly-there score. Eight dancers dressed in Marsha Skinner's black and white leotards resemble birds with their arms outstretched like wings, their legs raised behind them suggesting storks. They stretch, hop, jump, bend, flex and touch. There is a remarkable duet for two male 'birds', Glenn Wilkinson and Rafael Bonachela, facing each other in a fast sequence of steps and jumps ending in a suggestion of a shy kiss. That's about it, really. Cunningham is a master of dryly intellectual and 'sculptural' dancing, but he can sometimes move and surprise. I don't think he does either with 'Beach Birds', but at it is still a consistently watchable piece.
Glen Tetley's 'Pierrot Lunaire', a piece I'd been dying to see, came next, and it didn't disappoint. The German-born Martin Lindiger danced the pierrot figure with appropriate pathos and vulnerability (Tetley's choreography didn't call for much technical virtuosity, so there had to be quite a lot of pathos and vulnerability). He was brilliantly supported by Antonia Groves' coquettish and witty Columbine. Rouben Ter-Arutunian's simple scaffold set was effective, but wobbled worryingly when the dancers swung from it. I expect it had some tolerance built into it, like that Millennium bridge. The spiky Schoenberg score was accompanied by soprano Linda Hirst singing some brief poems ( in German) by Otto Hartleben. Hirst's singing was, for me, almost the best thing of the evening. Her voice is extraordinarily flexible, muscular and crystal-clear. Every single word of the German text floated clearly and audibly in a way scarcely heard even in English concerts or operas. It was just a pity that we didn't understand, and that no translation was given in the programme, especially since there were occasional laughs from, presumably, German-speaking audience members.
Christopher Bruce's 'Meeting Point' ended the programme, and I loved it. Set to a Nyman score and dressed in Marian Bruce's elegant black and white evening suits for both the men and the women, it starts as a courtly dance for diplomats and ends like a very enjoyable show-bizz number. Bruce provides some genuinely original choreography en route; he has a way of moving dancers which is consistently surprising. I loved Paul Liburd, whose dancing was juicy, powerful and graceful as a big cat, though a glance through the opera-glasses shows that he is not in the first flush of youth. There's hope for us all, then.