Wayne McGregor, Marion Motin, Hofesh Shechter
30 October - 1 November 2019; 2hr
Rambert has recovered its traditional slot in The Lowry’s programme as a high point of the autumn dance offering, opening its 2019-20 tour here – which is good to see.
But last night the company didn’t seem to have recovered all its traditional audience – which used to include crowds of squawking teenagers filling the theatre.
In the old days those kids used to be shushed by their teachers, intent on them encountering high culture rather than behaving as if they were at a rock concert. Now the performance on stage is (at least in part) more like a concert, it’s a pity the hollering hordes aren’t there in quite such numbers.
Those that were did their best though, and Rouge, the newest piece on offer created by Marion Motin (who has worked for Madonna in the past) went down extremely well. With music by Micka Luna, it has a solo guitarist on stage as well as a string quartet and percussionist in the pit, and the dancers interact with the guitar man as well as doing their own thing. What that thing is, you might puzzle over, were it not for the programme note which tells us it’s "about finding our real selves: our instinct and nature, rather than our culture".
So no problem there, then. The lighting by Judith Leray plays a big part in the whole effect – some of it a sea of red, of course, with red strips and white strobes also contributing – with the loudness of the music adding up to a complete assault on the senses.
Costumes (Yann Seabra) also make an impact: the dancers appear in the opening guitar solo as if in cold-weather wear: when that stops they throw off scarves and woollies and prepare for heat. At times they seem like lost souls in hell, writhing in that red light: at one point, after talking to the musician, they cavort like the tamed animals of The Magic Flute. It all finishes in wild abandon. Make of that what you will, but I couldn’t help wondering what would be left if the loudness and the lights were taken away.
Rambert’s opening work in this triple bill was PreSentient, which Wayne McGregor created for the company in 2002 using Steve Reich’s Triple Quartet. It’s very much the kind of contemporary classic Rambert is known for, and showed the dancers at their extraordinary and virtuosic best (it’s restaged by Catarina Carvalho). The movement is angular, flamboyant and disciplined and arises directly from the music in the way that Christopher Bruce, its dedicatee, used to practise so brilliantly.
Last was In Your Rooms, a Hofesh Shechter creation from 2007 presented in association with Hofesh’s own company. It has the Shechter signature characteristic of appearing to be about very precise concepts (there’s a recording of a disembodied voice talking philosophically about order and chaos – our "rooms" are a sort of order we try to introduce to universal randomness; there’s also a placard bearer proclaiming "Don’t follow leaders – follow me", and some more talk on survival and communication), but leaving you to interpret the movement yourself, because its meaning is anything but precise.
Live music (Shechter makes his own) is again visible, as string players and percussionists appear on a high platform, and the dance can often seem more like collective – and highly detailed – mime than anything else. But is it – and if it is, what are they miming? Shechter leaves us to guess, and the piece, like Rouge, is reminiscent of a concert atmosphere in some ways, though again brilliantly and amazingly danced.