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Rambert: The Castaways (Salford)

Dave Cunningham enjoys the sheer variety of moves in Rambert's latest production at the Lowry.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Rambert: The Castaways
© Chris Nash

You really couldn't ask for a more varied programme of dance. The latest line-up from The Rambert Dance Company includes a revival of one of their seminal ballets and a world premiere.

Director Ann Whitley's revival of Nijinsky's L'Apres-midi d'un faune is fascinating. Debussy's lush score and Sid Ellen's discrete lighting, which suggests the encroaching twilight, enhance the strong sense of loss in the dance.

Dane Hurst interprets the Faun less as an animal and more as an alien presence. His movements are incredibly disciplined; rather than flowing and organic they are stiff with a rigid stance, his head bobbling in a birdlike manner. Only the occasional exaggerated step suggests the primal nature of the Faun. It is a remarkable display of controlled passion.

In contrast, Mark Baldwin's What Wild Ecstasy offers cacophony instead of lyricism, sensual movement rather than controlled dancing, and bright colours replacing pastel shades. The company perform a twisting sinewy dance, but Baldwin tries too hard to squeeze in as much as possible, making the ballet visually confusing. It takes place underneath three bloody great big wasps and ends in a cascade of balls (no, really).

Appropriately for a dance celebrating the endurance of monuments, Tim Rushton's choreography for Monolith evokes a strong sense of reverence - even worship. Rushton emphasises the importance of striking and holding poses, while the unified movement of the company and their solemn dark clothing creates a tribal feel. Peteris Vasks's simple piano and fiddle based score helps build the strong atmosphere of the dance.

The Castways closes the show in crowd-pleasing style. Working on the principle that "hell is other people"m choreographer Barak Marshall traps a disparate range of characters (abandoned bride, shy lovers and bitches) in an enclosed space.

Marshall utilises techniques that might be frowned on by purists (such as a spoken narrative) but the result is so imaginative and satisfying no one would object. The dance merges styles from across the globe (Russian, Italian and Indian) and a mash-up of music including music hall, show tunes and pop.

Combined with an exuberant and compelling performance from the company, the outcome is sheer enjoyment. In a fine touch, the audience becomes involved in the ballet, with the final dance taking place with the house lights up.

In a thoughtful gesture, the Rambert's performance at The Lowry is dedicated to the theatre's late artistic director, Robert Robson.

- Dave Cunningham