Rambert, Sadler’s Wells, London – review

Warmer and brighter days, and Rambert celebrating the season with its spring appearance at the Wells. And, this year, with a considerably livelier programme than of late. Tuesday’s opening was slightly clouded by its first offering: Lucinda Childs’ Four Elements, made for Rambert in 1990 and a revenant from those earnest and tedious (in my gasping experience) activities of the New York/Judson Church experiments in rediscovering dance. (Reinventing the wheel was a similar matter.) There is a score by Gavin Bryars, incomprehensible panels of decoration, and Childs’ repetitious dance ideas to numb the senses. Carefully done (and with Adam Blyde’s airy, soaring leaps its best justification), it resembled a small but nagging headache.

So cheers, and more cheers from the audience, for Christopher Bruce’s Rooster, an ebullient response to Rolling Stones songs, and a lightest-hearted look at the 1960s. Rambert’s dancers were on best and sauciest form – with Miguel Altunaga strutting his tremendous stuff with vast charm as cock of this particular walk, alert-est rhythms, and an irresistible delight in Bruce’s choreography.

And to close the evening Dutiful Ducks, a cunning confrontation of Richard Alston’s bright-footed view of Charles Amirkhanian’s dislocated and spoken text (the evening’s programme calls it “music” and may well also believe that Dane Hurst, who splendidly and bright-footedly dances it, is heir to the throne of Peru), and Merce Cunningham’s Sounddance, a choreographic feast. Rambert does this admirably well. Its curtained locale is someone’s idea of an Austro-Hungarian bordello. Its accompaniment tells us that something is seriously wrong with the central heating. And Cunningham floods the stage with dance – buoyant, eager to outdo itself, energetic to a point wildly beyond expectations, and constantly renewing itself.

The cast, leaping, jumping, forming cells of action, leaving and returning to cluster together as if driven by some communal purpose and destiny, turns the stage into a gallery of energies and forms, with a sense of grand purpose, which is Cunningham’s choreographic design. It is a work of stunning verve, of no little mystery and of irresistible force, and Rambert dances it magnificently well. Cheers for them all. (Which also means those determined screams that are now part of life at the Wells.)


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