Didy Veldman’s The 3 Dancers takes its inspiration from Picasso’s 1925 painting, a work partly informed by a violent love triangle within the artist’s mileu. Bold and seemingly jaunty, a closer look at the picture reveals elements of macabre drama, a dark vein of threat and tension amongst the three dancing figures. As well as riffing on these emotional themes, Veldman’s choreography attempts to transpose the cubist form into choreographic structure, layering movement, shadow and light.
There’s no painterly colour here; Kimie Nakano’s design is strictly monochrome. The curtains open to reveal two groups of three dancers, one trio dressed in white, the other in black. Holding hands throughout, like Picasso’s dancers, they twist and twine in and out of complex knots, unfurling legs into angular extensions. As one trio finishes a sinuous phrase of movement, it’s echoed by the other, while our eyes are guided between them by brilliant white light. It’s all beautifully done. As the piece continues, fragments emerge of recognisably human drama. Dancers break away to form pairs – some combative, some clinging. A woman silences the man by her side who jigs with agitation. Two males are locked into a manipulative duet; one a coolly controlling puppeteer, the other a boneless marionette whose strings are plucked at will. All the dancers are excellent, but the work as a whole is never quite as arresting as that compelling opening section.
The emotional highs and lows of human relationships underpin Transfigured Night, choreographed by Kim Brandstrup to Schoenberg’s lush score. The string sextet was composed in response to a narrative poem by Richard Dehmel in which a woman confesses to her lover that she’s carrying another man’s child – he forgives her and accepts the unborn baby as his own. Brandstrup takes the moment of disclosure as a starting point, presenting three duets that imagine three possible outcomes for the couple: rejection and desolation, an idealised vision of adoration and then finally, most realistically, an ambiguous combination of trepidation and acceptance.
The first of these is fraught with despair. The woman (Simone Damberg Würtz) moves backwards in a tentative stagger, her hand outstretched, searching for the man who eludes her. There are poignant moments when she launches herself towards him, only to be caught and carried away by the eddying tide of a dark-clad ensemble. Hannah Rudd and Dane Hurst excel in the second scenario, the latter like an impish acrobat who casually rolls into a handstand, pedals the air and then nuzzles the woman out of her slumber. The pas de deux that follows is punctuated by quicksilver turns and airy lifts. Brandstrup’s work is a poignant exploration of human connection, though sometimes the movement doesn’t quite match the passionate heights of Schoenberg’s music.
Christopher Bruce’s Rooster brings the evening to a lighthearted close. Set to selected tunes by the Rolling Stones, it’s a swaggering, tongue-in-cheek series of swinging sixties vignettes, danced with joyful energy by Rambert’s dancers. Miguel Altunaga as the lead Rooster boy brings real comic timing his role as a strutting, preening poseur in a garish shirt, while Hannah Rudd makes a brilliantly daffy Ruby Tuesday.