RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 17-Sat 20 Oct.....
Britain’s flagship contemporary dance company is 75 years young this year and still going strong. To prove it, the London-based troupe is touring the UK with a host of dances, old and new.
Back in 1978, Czech-born choreographer Jir'i Kylian used Igor Stravinsky’s gorgeous, choral- dominated Symphony of Psalms as the springboard for a work of the same title, that is equal parts supplicatory lyricism and vague emotional sensation. Backed by a hanging wall of Persian rugs and some prayer chairs, eight couples undergo a strenuously exultant, yet anguished display of high-flown, overblown ballet sans point shoes.
Some find it impossible to resist the flow of Kylian’s austere, ambiguous dramatic abstractions, heavy with religious overtones. But however you feel about the piece, there’s no denying that the Rambert dancers pour themselves into their tasks creditably. The score, to be performed by the London Musici, is worth hearing under any circumstances.
The rest of the programme consists of pieces by British choreographers, two of them enormously influential veterans. Siobhan Davies made Sounding for Rambert in 1989. The dancers, all in white with sleeveless tops, enact an abstract enigma; it’s like a more lyrical, yet still aesthetically stringent, version of a dance by the great post- modern master Merce Cunningham. Giacinto Scelsi’s score, with its deep scrapes, monstrous knelling and sizzling cymbals, suggests an unsettling Oriental ceremony. The piece is
‘classically oriented, but luxuriously skewered with an indirect sexuality’
beautifully performed, as is the new Unrest by Richard Alston (whose own eponymous company rolls into Edinburgh next month). The dance is stylishly strategised to capture the mood - urgent yet formally calm - of the music to which it’s set; Arvo Part’s Fratres.
The bill is rounded out, rather stunningly, by Wayne McGregor’s detritus. This piece, which features thirteen dancers beneath a huge insect- like limb, possesses an oxymoronic heated cool. McGregor’s movement vocabulary is classically oriented, but luxuriously skewered with an indirect sexuality — mechanics rendered in the flesh. This is
clubland in some possibly sinister cyber stratosphere. The dancers lurch and morph with bent or curled wrists. Their stretches are distorted, their bodies segmented. A man picks a woman up by her pelvis and throws her forward, or stretches her like a bow. Crippled solos alternate with frantic, yet always controlled, group passages. A big dance like this needs a big sound. The score by sound artist Scanner is varied and exciting, giving off a tremendous charge. The lighting is infernal here and sickly yellow there. And always there’s that leg, raised and lowered and ambiguously dominating the scene. Terrific. (Donald Hutera)
MUSICAL OH! WHAT A NIGHT
Edinburgh Playhouse until Sat 13 Oct 0000
What lies behind our endless obsession with all things retro? Is it because the past was so good. or because the present is so bad? For people of a certain age. it's a clear case of revisiting their long lost y0uth. But what of the teenagers packing out the Playhouse this week? Their parents hadn't even met when the hits populating this 70s disco extravaganza were burning up the charts. Dance music has come a long way since then. bu'i the influence exerted by songs such as ‘Carwash‘. 'Lost In MuSic' and 'Disco lnferno' can still be felt today. Which perhaps goes some way towards explaining why the funk and fashions of that era just won't die.
There's little doubt that the real star of this show is the muSic. The hits come thick and fast. whipping the crowd into a fren7y ll had serious concerns about structural damage during an exuberant ‘YMCA'i. particularly the large contingent who had purchased tinsel wigs prior to the show. The 30— strong cast. headed by one- time chart resident Kid Creole (sans Coconuts‘i. are professional to the core. Tunes are belted out. the choreography is tight and the
64 THE LIST «2 18()(;t 2001
live band don‘t miss a beat. The storyline may be a little cheesy — drunken nightclub boss. budding pop star barman. nasty son-in-law and a gang of wannabe disco dancmg stars — but then musicals have never been fam0us for their plots. The New York setting may have prompted parallels with Studio 54. except these kids are far too clean living — having fun on the dancefloor rather than in the club toilets is their priority. On the downside. there's something rather unsettling about hearing ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning' whilst staring at the Manhattan skyline. complete with Twin Towers — a set change might be in order there. guys. (Kelly Apteri
PHYSICAL THEATRE 9 X 9
Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 18—Sat 20 Oct.
If yOu've ever wondered what 81 performers in one space might look like then check Out the latest offering from Belgian dance company. Les ballets C de la 8. Christine de Smedt's renowned company return to the Tramway w:tn an ambitious
piece of dance performance.
It's an experimental effort that ;nvolves leading dancers and choreographers working With people With little or no previous experience. The performers have been assembled by Rosma BonSLi and Glasgow's Dance Hocise and the specific nature of the piece will be determined in large measure by the input from local performers. ‘l've seen versions of this performance before but it's different in every place it performs.' says Tramway's Senior Producer Steve Slater. ‘It changes even; time'
Some of the performance will obviously be pre-planned. but the creatixe process leaves a great degree of room for the performers to fill in the gaps. “We won't really know what they Will be dOing until they do it'. says Slater. ‘The Paris versiOn started off in the foyer and took half an hour before it even got into the theatre. What will happen at Tramway Will come Out of what happens between the company and the
AlongSide the dance movement there WI“ also be an audio-Visual element to the production With local company Left and Right projecting images of contemporary Glasgow onto a large screen. It seems footage of an Oid Firm derby may well be featured in an attempt to comment directly on the city's culture.
Tramway regulars may recall the success eighteen months ago of See- Saw. a performance that Successfully broke down the barrier between performance and audience. This show is destined to follow Stilt. ‘lt's interesting in terms of theatre and dance that there is this involvement of the general public alongside what's happening in other terms of communication. like teIeVision. Where we have ordinary people thrust forward. We've got a lot more out of them than from some standard productions. They are unique productions and for that reason alone they are worth it.' (Davie Arcliibaldi
‘ordinary people thrust forward’