Dance review: Rambert, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Rambert Ballet show flashes of brilliance in a triple bill which gives the audience much to like visually. Picture: Contributed
Rambert Ballet show flashes of brilliance in a triple bill which gives the audience much to like visually. Picture: Contributed
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CONTEMPORARY dance may not be known for its storytelling properties, but sometimes it can convey human emotion like no other art form. Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night is a case in point.

Rambert: Dark Arteries and Other Works

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Rating: ****

Contemporary dance may not be known for its storytelling properties, but sometimes it can convey human emotion like no other art form. Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night is a case in point.

A new piece in the Rambert repertoire, it takes its inspiration from Schoenberg’s late 19th century composition Verklärte Nacht and the work of Austrian painter Egon Schiele. But from there, Brandstrup makes it his own.

A large ensemble stands as one united breath, looking on almost in judgment at our protagonist – a woman attempting to tell her lover she is pregnant with another man’s child. Watching the couple’s torment play out is both dramatic and poignant, as they weave through the crowd in search of each other, or cling on hopelessly then hopefully as their emotions shift.

Recognising that life, and relationships, rarely go according to plan, Brandstrup creates three possible outcomes for the lovers: a worst-case scenario, a fantasy fairytale ending, and a reality which falls between the two.

Simone Damberg Würtz and Miguel Altunaga are genuinely touching in the lead roles, aided by the equally strong pairing of Dane Hurst and Hannah Rudd, who portray the idealised outcome but actually feel like a memory of the couple’s younger, more carefree selves.

Elsewhere in the triple bill, Rambert offered flashes of brilliance but also vague frustration.

A stunning opening found Scottish brass band champions, Whitburn Band, filling the back of the stage, their music stands fashioned from Perspex riot shields. Inspired by the Miners’ Strike of 1984/5,

Dark Arteries is set to specially commissioned music by Gavin Higgins, performed at each venue on Rambert’s tour by a local former colliery band.

Visually and aurally there’s much to like: the dark, brooding score; Baldwin’s eye for combining costumes and choreography to striking effect; and Whitburn’s masterful playing. Overall, however, the work elicits confusion, with hand gestures and frequent busyness that leaves you wondering where to look and what to think.

Didy Veldman also takes you halfway to paradise with The 3 Dancers, a piece where the movement is slightly let down by the concept.

Inspired by Picasso’s painting of the same name, it ably explores the anger, passion and pain inherent in the original. Veldman creates clever and complex choreography, but in a bid to echo the painting, the lighting prevents us from fully appreciating its beautiful execution.

Run ends today