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LUNAIRE AND TIGER RETURN.

LUNAIRE AND TIGER RETURN

RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY

SADLER'S WELLS THEATER LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM MAY 31-JUNE 10, 2000

REVIEWED BY MARGARET WILLIS

Britain's longest-established troupe, the Rambert Dance Company, celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2001. Its recent London season showed that it has lost none of the inspiration and passion with which its founder, Marie Rambert, enthusiastically imbued her dancers during her remarkable life.

In its two weeks at Sadler's Wells Theater (where it has presented thirty-one seasons), the company revived Glen Tetley's Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain and Pierrot Lunaire, gave the company premiere of Merce Cunningham's Beach Birds, and performed Ghost Dancers, Meeting Point and Four Scenes, all works by the company's talented artistic director, Christopher Bruce.

Week one saw the first-ever "Proms at the theater:" the first eight rows of seats removed from the stalls and the audience--at times packed in--who paid only 6 [pounds sterling] , stood just a stone's throw from the dancers and thrived on the energy pulses they felt.

Tetley's Embrace Tiger and Return to Mountain was originally created for Rambert in 1968 when the choreographer was working with Nederlands Dans Theater. Set to Morton Subotnick's electronic score Silver Apples of the Moon, Tetley delves into the mystique of tai chi chuan, a Chinese system of meditative movements. Of the thirty-seven movements in the system, he chose the seventeenth for Embrace Tiger. It's nonaggressive, concentrating on stillness and centered balance. It proved a wonderfully relaxing ballet to watch, especially when done as well as it was.

The ten dancers emerged one by one in silence from behind floating gauze panels to take their space in the oh-so-slow motions, performed first individually, and then as a synchronized group. In their marbleized blood-orange unitards, white belts and wrist bands, designed by Nadine Baylis, they started with a series of snail-paced, deep plies in second, stretching and lunging, before progressing to smaller groupings with more active motions. They moved with panther-like deliberation, soft and soundless in their stalkings. Paul Liburd, who joined Rambert in 1992, is a dancer of prizefighter muscularity, yet he possesses surprising lightness and tautness in all his dancing. He performed a trio with two of the women, whom he lifted and supported with controlled strength. Tetley's ability to combine classical with contemporary technique was evident in the duet where he put a female dancer on pointe--while the rest of the company was barefoot. Former San Francisco Ballet soloist Deirdre Chapman, partnered by Jan de Schynkel, performed the duet with a calculated, fully-stretched turning of her body, at times lifted across the back of her partner upside down, while her long cartwheel legs slice the air with huge arcs of orange. Other times, she rose strongly on pointe to stab the slippery surface of the stage as she contorted her flexible body in slow-motion. The dancing, after the crescendo of activity, returned to its original serenity and inner peace.

By contrast, creel and base natures were on display in Pierrot Lunaire during the second week. Rambert first performed the 1962 work in 1967 when Christopher Brace brilliantly captured the soul of the central puppet-like figure. The piece is danced to Arnold Schoenburg's atonal score with its Sprechstimme--that unmistakable mix of song and guttural voice-talk that had soprano Linda Hirst grittily hissing and howling out the text as her voice ran chromatically up and down a scale like a buzz saw. The recreated set, with its solitary symbolic child's climbing frame, was by Rouben Ter-Artunian.

Pierrot is an important piece for today's dancers. It demands three top-rate dramatists as well as super technicians, and Rambert has found them in Conor O'Brien and Americans Branden Faulls and Deirdre Chapman-real-life husband and wife. These dancers flowed with authority as they recounted the commedia dell'arte-styled parable of innocence lost. Pierrot Lunaire, the child-like dreamer, was exceptionally well danced by O'Brien, who swung on the bars with an infantile rocking motion and romped around the stage, before his curiosity made him easy prey for the darker elements of life. On stage throughout the whole ballet, O'Brien, with his compact, muscular body and great flexibility, moved with grace and fluidity, clean lines and beautiful arabesques. His white painted face and Dutch-girl hat, curled up at the sides, added to his interpretation of the simpleton, and he certainly proved himself a comic actor with his sharply defined facial and body expressions. As Columbine, who represents a mother figure, a mistress, a whore, Chapman danced convincingly, clearly expressing herself in open, expansive movements and deftly shaping the changes of her role--from maternal softness to caustic carnality. Faulls completed the triangle of dance excellence with his bully figure of Brighella, who takes Pierrot on the road to ruin. He presented a cunning and conniving cad, complete with hearty laugh, but a scoundrel who, in tree Shakespearean style, also possessed a charismatic side. The production was more than satisfying: It was magical.
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Title Annotation:Review; Sadler's Wells Theater, London, England
Author:Willis, Margaret
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:818
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