DanceNorth WestReview

Rambert Dance: Eye Candy, Cerberus and Following The Subtle Current Upstream- The Lowry, Salford

Reviewer: Dave Cunningham

Choreographers: Imre van Opstal, Marne van Opstal, Ben Duke and Alonzo King

Music : Amos Ben-Ta, Romarna Campbell, Rebecca Leggett , George Robinson, Zakir Hussain, Miguel Frasconi and Miriam Makeba

The current triple bill from Rambert Dance pushes the dance artform from cheerful irreverence to full-on abstract expression.

Dance is often perceived as an appreciation of the natural physical prowess of the troupe. Although promoted as a celebration of the human body, the opening number, Eye Candy, choregraphed by Imre and Marne van Opstal, has an artificial, forced, tone. It is hard to avoiding thinking of the myth of Frankenstein’s creature as the dancers behave like wind-up dolls.

The intense choreography pushes the troupe into jerky, stylised gestures which seem compelled by outside stimuli – electrical shocks or drugs- rather than fluid organic movements.  The sense of a cruel scientific experiment hangs over the dance; a dancer is coldly manipulated into awkward poses like a manikin while other members of the company watch dispassionately. Although the dance cannot be considered sensual there is a cold sexual element with the dancers running their hands over their own bodies.

Nothing is what it seems with Ben Duke’s Cerberus; in which the mythical guard dog at the gate of Hades does not make an appearance. The narrative instead takes inspiration from the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, lovers whose efforts to escape the underworld were thwarted by a lack of faith.

The use of speech during dance is equivalent to breaking the fourth wall in theatre yet in Cerberus the technique works brilliantly. The dance opens with a passive aggressive announcement reassuring the audience the dancers are quite willing to pause mid-step while vital mobile phone calls are taken and explaining one side of the stage represents life and the other death and the dance is a journey between the two.

Despite the grim theme Cerberus is incapable of taking itself too seriously. A dancer struggles from one side of the stage to the other tethered by a whacking great rope and taking wonderfully exaggerated, almost comedic, dance steps. Unable to believe she has really passed on; her lover delivers a confused eulogy and finds himself forced into dissuading other people from proceeding lemming-like into the afterlife.

The choreography is sharply varied; a dignified stalely line of supplicants is offset by frenzied   outbursts by individuals. The dance is propelled by irresistible percussion performed live by Romarna Campbell. Although irreverent Cerberus is a highly original and engaging use of dance.

Following the Subtle Current Upstream, choreographed by Alonzo King is dance in its purest form- a celebration of the ability to express joy in a physical manner. The dance is technically stunning but without a narrative to set a context it becomes abstract. The audience is in the position of coolly appreciating the stunning technique rather than warmly enjoying the dance.

Following the Subtle Current Upstream is a premiere piece and so is understandably held back for the climax. From a presentational point of view, however, it might have been better scheduled for the start than the ending of a fine evening.

Reviewed 25 May 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Pushing the artform

The Reviews Hub - North West

The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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