Being Mark Baldwin must be good fun. The director of Rambert Dance Company can draw on an enviable back catalogue of ballets to stage, plus he has a budget to commission new ones. He also has fine dancers, an able orchestra and a loyal audience, a combination which adds up to one of the best jobs in dance.
Baldwin’s optimism is obvious in Rambert’s current visit to Sadler’s Wells. The triple bill features two new works, and a classic, all of which are well danced.
The programme begins with a new work by the young-ish Henri Oguike, his first for Rambert. Tread Softly is an ensemble piece for 10 dancers to Schubert’s Death and The Maiden, and includes Oguike’s familiar style of rapid runs and emphatic stamps. It’s a combination that looks both light-footed and flat-footed at the same time, a mix that might sound confusing but which somehow acknowledges our earth-bound lives and our longing for flight.
The second new work is The Comedy of Change by Baldwin himself. It’s inspired by Darwin Year and includes ideas of diversity, natural selection and how we physically and emotionally evolve. Visually the piece is striking, with mostly excellent costumes and wonderful lighting that alternatively evokes space and shade. However, it is the dancing and specially commissioned music that score points. Julian Anderson’s spiky composition evokes both wilderness and civilizations, while Baldwin’s Cunningham-inflexed choreography is pure and spare.
Sandwiched by these two is Siobhan Davies’s vintage Carnival of the Animals, which uses Saint-Saëns familiar music. It was made back in 1982, but its humorous evocation of the beasts of sky, sea and field is timelessly appealing. The only drawback are the white tuxedos costumes which hide the dancers bodies and seem to restrict their movement.