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Spinoza said that he had “laboured carefully not to mock, lament, and execrate, but to understand”. His help would have been welcome in dealing with the programme with which Rambert Dance marks its spring season at Sadler’s Wells. All too easy to lament the lost opportunities in Karole Armitage’s new Gran Partita, and not least the indignities to which Mozart’s wind writing was subjected by her dances. (London Musici to the rescue.)
The piece looks as if it were intended for a classical troupe, and has lost its choreographic edge when given by a modern ensemble, the women most unwisely bare-legged, outfitted in hideous bathing costumes; the men in dreary coveralls. A set made of gauzy curtaining is attractive (design is by Jean Marc Puissant) but the dance rarely touches the score other than in a furtive manner, and betrays Mozart’s elegance. The dancers do not look at their best as they engage in Armitage’s patterns and couplings, and save for an emotionally alert duet of the “she- loves-me, she-loves-me-not” kind, the piece strives for effect and fails. A ballet manqué perhaps and, to my eyes, a time-waster.
As to execration, even Spinoza might have reached for the bile when dealing with the other novelty, André Gingras’ Anatomica#3. A Royal Personage (pink suit, dowdy hat, handbag and a blue sash) supervises curtain-rise, her appearance then duplicated by the rest of the cast. Ha, I suppose, ha! Speedy costume changes into the vilest of today’s yoof outfits; a Matterhorn of polystyrene mattresses looming at the back of the stage, off which the cast intermittently fling themselves (design by Fabrice Serafino); the tedious clangour of Joseph Hyde’s gamelan score (played on a hell’s kitchen of percussion) – all are there as the cast risk life and limb in Gingras’s wall-of- death choreography.
The cast bounce, fly, race, nod at breakdance (better done by north London schoolboys) and adopt that ill-favoured and b-off manner that is so engaging an aspect of life today. They appear to risk life and limb in this crass display, and might well save themselves for a better cause. The piece is probably rabid, and should be put down. The evening opens with the serenities and clear lines of Merce Cunningham’s Pond Way. In this galère it also serves as a reproach.
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