Rambert Dance Company: Dark Arteries

Rambert is quite possible the most important dance company performing in Britain today; at the very least their influence is far-reaching. Known for presenting large scale works, it’s usually worth the entry price just to see the scale of the performances. Their new production Dark Arteries does not disappoint, although it falls short of the company's own high-water mark.

Divided in to three sections the narrative unfolds after a devastating confession.

The piece starts with the Whitburn Band on stage in tiered seating, with low droning coming from the tuba players that moves between slow to fast, representing energy shifts found in the world and throughout history. The music composed by Gavin Higgins wouldn't sound out of place in a 1940s’ noir film. It’s a good solid composition but doesn’t quite fit with the choreography by Mark Baldwin.

There are plenty of great flourishes and recurring themes, but the piece is too long and appears to lose focus in some movements. At times it seems shackled to the music and other points appears to deviate from it. With no clear narrative I found it difficult to follow and my attention wavered from time to time. But throughout it is clear how much talent is on display.

The 3 Dancers was the second piece of the night and proved a real highlight. Inspired by Picasso’s painting, Les Trois Danseuses, it attempts to bring Cubism to life and largely succeeds. The music by Elena Kats-Chernin has a great French vibe and goes a long way to hold the themes together. The set and lighting also set the scene brilliantly, creating multi faceted perspectives. Large shards are lowered during the piece, impressively close to the dancers giving a palpable feeling of danger.

A love triangle is played out in front of us examining themes that Picasso dealt with during the time period the painting was created in. It’s a macabre dance, with humour and passion. Simone Damberg Würtz was allowed to shine in this, and she provided to be the stand out performer from an incredibly talented pool.

The final piece was Transfigured Night, choreographed by Kim Brandstrup to Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, which in turn is based on a work by German poet Richard Dehmel. The costumes and set design are also influenced by the works of figurative painter Egon Schiele. With all these early 20th century Germanic influences it provides the piece with a deep melancholic vibe without blundering into Wagner-like melodrama.

Divided in to three sections the narrative unfolds after a devastating confession. Each movement represent a different possible outcome. They are all work well, but the last movement representing the lovers compromising in and uncertain of each other is truly heart wrenching and beautiful. 

Reviews by James W. Woe

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The Blurb

Rambert has never sounded quite like this before. Britain’s national dance company brings brass band-powered dance to the Festival Theatre. Joined live on stage by the full ranks of Whitburn Band, reigning Scottish Brass Band Champions, Rambert presents Dark Arteries, a powerful, emotion-filled work about community and change, inspired by the 30th anniversary of the end of the miners’ strike. It is a dance which draws you into its emotional heart while the music lifts the hairs on the back of your neck, then raises the roof.

Dark Arteries forms the centrepiece of a triple bill of stunning dance, which also includes Transfigured Night. In Transfigured Night two lovers meet by moonlight, and a dark secret threatens to tear them apart. Created by two-time Olivier-award winning choreographer Kim Brandstrup, it is a dramatic love story, with intimate duets and spectacular ensemble dancing amplifying the beauty and romance of its Schoenberg score.

The programme is completed by The 3 Dancers, based on one of Picasso’s greatest paintings, and the tragic love triangle that inspired it. Choreographer Didy Veldman and composer Elena Kats-Chernin bring to life Picasso’s vivid Cubist imagery and the themes of love, desire and doom which fill his work.

Packed with thought-provoking drama, superb live music and world-class dancing, this is Britain’s national dance company at its most captivating.