Rambert dance company are back in Edinburgh with Dark Arteries and two other works – “The Three Dancers” and “Transfigured Night”, and although each work is strikingly different in its subject matter and dance, there is something that seems to hold them all together as almost one cohesive work. That indefinable cohesion is probably the artistic style of Rambert itself.
Dark Arteries is the first of the works performed tonight, and celebrates the music which still endures from mostly former mining communities and that means the sound of Brass Bands as they have been interwoven with this community for over 100 years. This work also touches on some of the issues around “The Miners’ Strike” of the 1980s and the still to many ongoing repercussions that these events had in the mining community.
I have to be careful in this review not to run off at a tangent as my father was a miner most of his working life and I have very strong feelings on this subject. “The Miners’ Strike” is just three little words that hide how the government of the day used the full weight of everything at its disposal to crush a section of society, and their use of the police in that goal has left scars that have never been repaired to this day.
Choreographed by Mark Baldwin; music by Gavin Higgins this is a powerful piece of not only dance, but theatre and the colours of the costumes on many of the large ensemble of dancers on stage at the time just reminded me of the colours of the police on newsreels (remember when our police did not have those awful black uniforms on).
Brass Bands are at the beating heart of Gavin Higgins’ music, and it is nice to see Rambert working with local brass bands. Here in Edinburgh that music is from the full company of reigning Scottish Champions, Whitburn Band, and it is a testament to the communities from this area that bands like this still thrive as the loss of “the mines” did irreparable damage to communities here and in the surrounding areas.
The music for this work is new and is a seamless match with the choreography to produce something special. Even the name of the piece – “Dark Arteries” just makes me think of those dark arteries of coal that miners worked so hard to get out of the ground. Also, a reminder in this work that when the miners lost their struggle with the government, the whole of working class society eventually lost too.
The second work “The Three Dancers” is the tale of love, desire and betrayal behind Picasso’s famous “The Three Dancers” painting. with choreography by Didy Veldman and new music by Elena Kats-Chernin. Kimie Nakano (costume and design) and Ben Ormerod (lighting) have done a wonderful job of bringing the cubist elements of this painting to life for the Rambert dancers to perform against. I have to admit that I like contemporary dance best when it is flowing gracefully rather than jagged and confrontational and this is just a wonderful mix of dance wonderfully choreographed to very emotional music. At times this flows like an old fashioned Hollywood musical (and I love them).
Personally, I preferred this work to “Dark Arteries”, but only because much of the work concentrated on six dancers –three black costumes, three white in a wonderful contrast to one another as they moved at times- and it was just easier for me to view this work as a complete piece. With some 20 dancers on stage for much of the time, and so much going on, “Dark Arteries” was something that I know I missed so much of by watching specific dancers at any one time.
My favourite performance work was the last one though – “Transfigured Night”. This story of two lovers meeting on a moonlit night with a dark secret that threatens to tear them apart is just a stunning piece of work performed beautifully on stage with principal duets from Miguel Altunaga, Simone Damberg Wurtz, Dane Hurst and Hannah Rudd.
Choreography is by Kim Brandstrup, and music by Arnold Schoenberg , and is just at times a mixture of classical dance and classic 1930s musical. You can almost imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing some of these routines
Rambert is a dance company that has an amazing depth of talent in its ranks and I have deliberately not listed many individual dancers as they all work to make up “Rambert”, but Miguel Altunaga, and Simone Damberg Wurtz are an exceptional couple to watch dancing together. Both have that rare ability to actually just stand on stage and do nothing at all...you just seem drawn to both of them.
Three new works from Rambert here, and each one a strong individual piece, but put together, just a great night of dance and theatre.
Review by Tom King