Imre van Opstal and Marne van Opstal, Ben Duke, Alonso King
Rambert Dance Company
The Lowry, Salford
May 25-28, 2022, 1hr 55min
“None of this makes any sense” is one of the lines you hear in the second of Rambert’s pieces on this triple bill, and for some of the time that was my feeling about one of the two new works they had to offer at The Lowry. Maybe that’s how it's meant to be.
Eye Candy, created by Imre van Opstal and Marne van Opstal and premiered online last year, has a dream-like quality, in which dancers with “nude” suits plus fake breast enhancements move in ways that in more conventional dance language often depict dolls, mannequins or automata. Angular, jagged and ungraceful, at one point with guttural shouts accompanying the movements, they might be holding a particular style of choreography up to ridicule – or at least to deconstruction and destruction.
But then you see the interpretative note supplied with the credits, and it’s really about “the pains and pleasures of inhabiting the human body” and how it’s made to perpetuate “an unattainable beauty standard”. All very earnest… unless the note’s ironic, too. Is there a story? We’re told all three pieces combine dance with story-telling. Well, the action clearly stopped and re-started somewhere near half-way through, and the later part might be showing something more genuinely human than the earlier, but that’s as far as I got.
Ben Duke’s Cerberus, though, is more straightforward. A new piece for this tour, it’s a playlet with dancing – so the versatile performers have to deliver spoken lines as well as moves – and it definitely has a story. There’s live music, too: a drum improvisation by Romarna Campbell, and Monteverdi’s Lamento della Ninfa, sung by Rebecca Leggett to George Robinson’s guitar accompaniment. There are recorded tracks, too.
The story is Orpheus and Eurydice, given a comic touch and brought into today’s world by being presented as if it happened to members of a contemporary dance ensemble.
Orpheus, you will remember, had to go to the kingdom of the Shades to try and bring his dead lover back to life, the condition being that as he led her out he should not look back at her, behind him.
The simple and effective use of a length of rope, and endless processions from one side of the stage to the other (almost in the manner of the famous Kingdom of the Shades scene from Petipa’s La Bayadère), take us into this haunting vision of the other world and the thoughts of those left behind in this one. It’s got some fun in it, too, though you’ll have to see it to find out what happens in the end.
Then everything changes for Alonso King’s Following the Subtle Current Upstream, a 22-year-old work from America's Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Twenty-two years is a long time in contemporary dance, and this is probably seen as a heritage work now: its fusing of contemporary style with the pirouettes, leaps and extensions of classical ballet, with the music seeming to grow out of the dance rather than vice-versa (the dance starts before the music begins and ends after it’s stopped), fully demonstrates Rambert's excellence in both traditions.
It’s full of pure, inventive choreography, and, more than anything else in the evening, shows just what elegance and expertise the Rambert company has, the brief duo featuring Cali Hollister being just one of its many highlights.
Info and tickets here