Rambert: Ghost Dances and others – New Theatre, Oxford

We were invited to watch Rambert’s Ghost Dances at Oxford’s New Theatre. Tom and I couldn’t make it, so Helena and her beau took up the opportunity on behalf of the Weekend Tourist. Here’s what she had to say about the performance… 

Having only seen my school and university dance shows, I wasn’t sure what to expect when ATG invited us along to Rambert’s Ghost Dances at Oxford’s New Theatre.

As Britain’s oldest dance company, Rambert turns 90 this year, and they’re celebrating with their largest ever nationwide public engagement programme, as well as touring Ghost Dances – resurrecting (excuse the pun!) their most requested work from their back catalogue.

The show was performed by 21 of Rambert’s dancers in three separate pieces – Transfigured Night, The 3 Dancers, and finally the renowned Ghost Dances. When we settled into our seats in the stalls we were excited to see the live band just in front of us, who were super talented and created a really special atmosphere throughout.

The first two pieces were so different and really gave us a taste of the diverse styles of contemporary dance, as well as the talent of the Rambert company. Transfigured Night, which focused on a couple and highlighted the to-ing and fro-ing of tension in the relationship, reminded me of a musical. The classical live music accompanying the dance ranged from light and playful to a powerful crescendo, mirroring the couple’s movements. We couldn’t help but be in awe of the dancers’ strength, grace and ability to tell a story simply through movement!

After a short interval – and of course a quick ice-cream! – the second piece, The 3 Dancers, began. Inspired by Picasso’s painting of the same name, the dancers, all in dressed in either black or white, moved with dream-like fluidity then passionate emotion. Throughout the dance, the stage gets divided with mirror-like shards which created confusing reflections and shadows to add to the uneasy atmosphere. You could really feel the tension and emotion which radiated from the dancers in their movements and intense facial expression.

Then the finale, Ghost Dances. The piece, created originally in 1981 by renowned choreographer Christopher Bruce, is a tribute to the victims of political oppression in South America, so we were expecting something powerful.

Opening with rhythmic panpipes, and three skeletal figures, it is immediately haunting. It tells stories of love and compassion, as death – in the form of the iconic ‘ghosts’ – interrupts the daily lives of a series of ordinary people. This contrast between the vibrant energy of life and eerie quietness of death, alongside the Day of the Dead style costumes and Latin American score, made the dance so compelling. It wasn’t difficult to see why the piece has been made so famous and has been so popular, even as a dance-novice.

We left feeling inspired – the dancers were so talented and each piece really told a story in a way I didn’t know dance could. The live band were equally fantastic too, and we were singing the panpipes tune from Ghost Dances the whole way home!

Thanks to Helena for her review and ATG for the invite! 

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