Arts: Dance - Heart and soul

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The Independent Culture
ALTHOUGH BIOLOGISTS tell us you can't separate emotion from reason, the proportion of heart to mind surely varies, and Christopher Bruce's Ghost Dances - an archetypal example of his style - appeals primarily to the heart. It was a defining moment in Bruce's career, a mega-hit when he created it for Rambert Dance Company in 1981, and the company's latest revival shows it has lost none of its power.

Nothing invokes as poignant a sense of humanity as the folk dance and music forms that so often colour Bruce's work. For Ghost Dances, he has turned to South America, drawing from American Indian ritual the three skull-faced apparitions that open the piece.

A group of men and women then arrive, to be successively confronted by these ghosts and perform simple but intense dances that rise and fall on the syncopations of indigenous pipe music. The effect is all the more potent because they seem to be representing the loves and tragedies of their lives, and the Rambert cast perform with all their might.

There is a throat-catching tenderness in the playful duet where Matthew Hart invites Patricia Hines to lead him by his tie, as she would a slave by his leash. And there is a tearing anguish to Deirdre Chapman's fast dribbling footsteps and whiplash arches of her body, her scarlet dress as vibrant in the twilight as fresh blood.

These people seem so young and vital, yet they are also dead, souls in transit to the underworld. The clearing to which they have come overlooks the distant peaks of the Andes, but is a no-man's land, inhabited only by the three ghosts.

Bruce's piece is a tribute to the politically oppressed people of South America, and after the ghosts help the dead to pass on, they wait for the next batch because human violence never ends. The conception is brilliantly metaphorical and, although its impact may be emotional, clever reason clearly shaped it.

Merce Cunningham avoids open emotion, preferring to play upon the mind's calmer aesthetic sensibilities. Even so, August Pace's rigorously sculpted movement knocks you sideways with its unexpectedness, and entrances you with its bizarre logic. Which leaves Twyla Tharp's closing The Golden Section to reach a part of the brain that controls neither emotion nor reason but the unconscious pheromone-responsive faculty that can key into the undiluted adrenalin, as the dancers throw themselves into Tharpian athletic fireworks.

Sadler's Wells, London EC1 (0171-863 8000) to 4 Dec; Bruce/Rambert's `God's Plenty', Theatre Royal, Plymouth (01752 267222) 8-11 Dec