S&H Dance Review

RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY She is black & Sergeant Early's dream Sadler's Wells Theatre 18 November 2000

Contemporary music has a large, young, open-minded and appreciative audience amongst the enthusiasts for modern dance, and the Rambert Dance Company has a long history of collaboration with innovative music directors. (Years back, I attended an illuminating workshop for young composers in association with the SPNM, in which the Rambert's then director, Richard Alston, did instant choreography of newly composed scores by young composers.) Currently, they have a close association with London Musici, which has in the past been involved in danced presentations of the music of Scelsi and Ustvolskaya, to name two who never feature in mainstream concerts, and in this season members of London Musici are playing Michael Daugherty's Le Tombeau de Liberace.

For his semi-abstract ballet, about 'an urban landscape where the most rejected being, the human litter, reveals its true potential', Mas Ek counterpointed his ever inventive, fast moving choreography to Gorecki's half-hour 2nd String Quartet, Quasi una Fantasia (1991), played from the Kronos Quartet's recording of Gorecki's two string quartets (Elektra-Nonesuch 7559-79319-2 £5.99!), and, at the end, Kongerei (traditional throat song arr. S. Mackey) on the same label.

For impatient listeners like myself, it was extraordinary to have these unpredictable darting, nervous, acrobatic movements, bringing unlimited imagination to the possibilities of limbs and trunks and simple props (a table and a portable set of chairs) set to the alternating blocks and minimalist repetitiveness of the first movement, an eight minute largo sostenuto - mesto. Later, there was close connection between detail of the music and choreographed movement.

It would require a different expertise to attempt to convey in words this absorbing visual experience, comparable to the impact of the first modern dance DVD seen, the Nederlands Dans Theater's Black & White.

For me, She is black opened me to a positive response to music of a type to which I am somewhat allergic - subsequently I listened again to the Kronos CD and found much in it to admire; an example of how one performance art can feed off another! (I suspect that Gorecki may be as disenchanted by Rambert's take-over of his quartet as was Goethe by Schubert's setting his poems?)

The second ballet, by Rambert's artistic director Christopher Bruce, based upon Irish, British & American folk song, was enjoyable, though less strikingly innovative. Having not long ago enjoyed the machine-gun tap-dancing and exhilarating intensity of Riverdance  it was hard to take the silent Irish folk dancing in this ballet. The Sergeant Early Band, with pipes, whistles, concertina, bodhran etc and vocals still includes members dating back to 1984 when the group was formed of a group of friends at Christopher Bruce's instigation. The music is recorded by The Sergeant Early Band on Incantation Cook CD 69, available from P.O.Box 1845, W10 4BT.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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