Inspired by a painting, a poem, Bach, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and the CERN Hadron Collider, Rambert’s exciting and innovative triple bill showed how choreographers can start from utterly different places.

Rambert has a scientist in residence (Professor Nicola S. Clayton), but it was artist Katie Paterson who took Mark Baldwin to CERN, where he found out about the properties of quarks. The Strange Charm of Mother Nature is a virtuoso dance piece in two movements; the first, to Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, gives us slow duets, set against dancers who ricochet across the stage like neutron stars; the second, to Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto, bursts through space in a blaze of colour with spectacular spins and leaps, the embodiment of cosmic energy, yet strangely cool and scientific.

Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night springs from Schoenberg’s response to Richard Dehmel’s poem Verklärte Nacht, in which a woman walking through a dark forest at night admits to her new lover that she is expecting another man’s baby. In the poem, the lover forgives the woman and accepts the child, but Brandstrup offers three possible narratives: loss and rejection; a blissful fantasy of forgiveness; and a compromise between the two. Simone Damberg Würtz as the woman, her dress symbolically scarlet, is a beautifully placed dancer who knows how to convey emotion through understatement, and she was well matched by Miguel Altunaga as her lover. (In the second scene, a form of dream sequence, they are replaced by two dancers in white). The dance conveys the alternative stories with subtle restraint, a darkly dressed chorus sometimes seeming to represent the (exterior) forest, at other times, the interior of their minds. Brandstrup has chosen to end the third scene with a sense of resignation that gives a downbeat resolution, whereas the poem ends with a feeling of upbeat transfiguration in the ‘high, bright night’.

For me the highlight of the evening was The 3 Dancers. Commissioned to create a work based on Picasso’s painting, with a new score by Elena Kats-Chernin, Didy Veldman has embraced both the tragic story of a three-way love affair and death and the artistic and intellectual preoccupations of the 1920s. Kimie Nakano’s wonderful set, with its references to Cubism and Surrealism, and the shards of mirror that by the end split the stage and divide the characters capture the visual aesthetic of the period, while the representation of the inner and outer aspects of each of the protagonists by two dancers, represented by white or black clothing, echoes the contemporary fascination with Freud and psychology.   As the dancers move together entwined in groups of three we are transported back through early twentieth century Modernism to witness the pain of a true love triangle which is nevertheless extremely beautiful, and one in which the woman seems to have the upper hand. Baldwin, as Artistic Director has rightly and generously used an image from this dance work as the cover for the programme.

The use of live music conducted by Paul Hoskins for all three pieces was particularly pleasing.

Maggie Watson

17 February 2016