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Rambert: 3 Dancers – Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Choreographers: Didy Veldman, Mark Baldwin, Kim Brandstrup
Reviewer: Scott Matthewman

 

Pablo Picasso’s 1925 painting The Three Dancers provides the inspiration for Didy Veldman’s work for six dancers, one of three showcased at Aylesbury (Rambert’s current tour features a trio of routines at each venue, selected from seven in the dance company’s current repertoire). The portrait of three figures, hands locked together in a messy circle, is reflected in the opening elements, as three white-clad dancers entwine and untangle themselves, fingers never separating from their partners’, their moves echoed by a similar trio dressed all in black.

Where Picasso’s picture is packed with vibrant colour, Kimie Nakamo’s design is monochromatic, concentrating on the intense contrast of light and shadow. As the trios eventually untangle themselves and each light figure does battle with its shadow counterpart, Veldman’s choreography brings mere hints of the turbulent real lives of the people who inspired Picasso’s painting. Most impressive is Daniel Davidson as the Pinocchio-like figure struggling to break free of his shadow alter-ego’s puppet master.

The emphasis is more on deconstructing and re-assembling a set of elements to produce a heightened, unreal version of life. While Picasso’s Cubist period is often thought of as being dominated by straight lines and bold moves, here such parallels are drawn only by the mirrored shards of the set: the dancers themselves reflect the curved form of the painters in the picture, their constant failed efforts to fully embrace one another creating a lesson in heartbreak.

Less successful is Mark Baldwin’s The Strange Charm of Mother Nature, which is inspired by how physicists studying subatomic particles are seeking answers to how their interactions form the building blocks of the natural world. Unfortunately, there isn’t the same connection with its source material as in Veldman’s work, and the resultant work feels more like a clinical exhibition of showpiece moves. Divided into three sections, but set to two very different styles of music (from Stravinsky and Bach), the results are like the images seen as particles collide: flashes that are not without their beauty but which fade as quickly as they appear.

Far more successful is an intensely lyrical piece, Transfigured Night, choreographed by Kim Brandstrup. Set to Schoenberg’s Verläkte Nacht, its story is taken from the Richard Dehmel poem that inspired the music, a tale of a woman who confesses to her husband that she is carrying another man’s child. Brandstrup picks up the narrative just after that moment, as the wife (Simone Damberg Würtz) is spurned by her husband (Miguel Altunaga). The Rambert ensemble is used to superb effect as silent, shadowy figures, blocking Würtz’s path to forgiveness and flinging her out of his way as Altunaga rages.

Left alone, the wife imagines a different reality, where the partner’s love for her leads to complete forgiveness and acceptance. Taking over as the idealised version of the couple, Hannah Rudd and Liam Francis echo their predecessors’ moves, supplementing them with affection, care and grace. As reality kicks back in and the original couple finds an uneasy truce, we are left with a piece of far greater emotional clarity than either of its predecessors, taking its place as the one that will be retained in the memory.

Runs until 13 February 2016 | Image: Hugo Glendinning

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