In an exercise in cultural counter-devolution, the “national” dance companies of Scotland, Wales and England come together in this mixed programme of works newly commissioned for the Cultural Olympiad. But while representative of most of the kingdom, they are far from united, each appearing alone and comfortably separated from the others by an interval.
And the Earth Shall Bear Again by choreographer du moment Itzik Galili opens proceedings. Set to John Cage’s clanking music for prepared piano – at the pots-and-pans end of orientally inspired percussive sound – and under Galili’s own brash but admittedly virtuosic lighting, the work presents gobbets of linear motion that never build into a dance narrative. Two dozen English National Ballet dancers in diaphanous net tops and nude trunks are deployed in extreme, dislocated movement to little effect in these post-Forsythean times – Galili has nothing to add.
Ex-Richard Alston dancer-turned- choreographer Martin Lawrance tackles John Adams’ tangy Son of Chamber Symphony in Run for It under Martin Boyce’s dominating geometric canopy, with the forces of Scottish Ballet clad in royal blue tops and trunks. Lawrance choreographs fluently and cleanly, responding with intelligence to the score, but as yet he lacks a distinctive voice.
Veteran choreographer Christopher Bruce is the creator of choice for the smallest of the three troupes, the National Dance Company Wales. His Dream deftly evokes the period charm of mid-20th-century Britain in a nod to the Queen’s Jubilee and portrays ordinary folk enlivened and invigorated by the competitive spirit of sport. Set to Ravel’s oh-so-familiar but nonetheless impressive Bolero, and book-ended by passages from Welsh composer Grace Williams, Dream depicts the increasing excitement of assorted people who progressively shed their demob suits and A-line skirts to indulge in countless Olympic pursuits in their undies, with nary an Adidas tracksuit or Nike trainer in sight.
Bruce expertly marshals his 10 dancers in everything from egg-and-spoon races to gymnastic flick-flacks, the whole work suffused with his trademark wit in a charming paean to the everyman and everywoman whom the impending sporting event will touch, and from whom the medallists will have emerged. It is utterly charming, huge fun and an unquestionable success, a veritable pièce d’occasion that directly celebrates the forthcoming London Olympics.