Susan Darlington reviews Ghost Dances, Rambert, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
The whoops and whistles from the audience are more commonly associated with a Little Mix concert than a dance production. At their best, however, there’s something pleasingly populist about Rambert.
The troupe’s latest mixed programme features two crowd-pleasers, the first of which is Itzik Galili’s A Linha Curva.
A joyful burst of samba, its coloured lights form a grid around which the 26 performers move.
The energy recreates the spirit of a carnival street dance, with small groups engaged in friendly competition as they spur each other on to feats of even greater athleticism.
The four-piece live band is equally visually magnetic, the members turning their bodies into percussion instruments as they slap, clap and chant.
Its sensual, infectious energy is replaced by something altogether more reflective in Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, which is the company’s most requested piece. The popularity is easy to understand, with three death figures creating a ripple of frisson in their rigid masks and ragged costumes.
Shadowing the folk dances of their younger and happier selves, mapped by melancholy pan pipes and flutes, the piece evokes the Day of the Dead while also being set in the shadow of the horrors of Pinochet’s coup in Chile.
A powerful meditation on the transitory nature of life, it has an appreciation of the simple moments of happiness that are in short supply during the debut of Ben Duke’s Goat.
A multi-media piece that has dance eating itself with overly self-aware jokes, it describes “a traditional ritual” of purging bad deeds and events on New Year’s Eve.
There are moments of mild humour when the televised presenter asks a number of dancers what emotion their contorted bodies illustrate. “Pain,” deadpans one dancer. “The stigma of addiction,” replies another. Yet for the most part it feels intellectually forced, its physical theatre lacking momentum and long outstaying its welcome.
It’s a frustratingly flat note on which to end the evening, which until that point had been high on emotional impact.
Touring until May 26 2018. Box office: www.rambert.org.uk.