The title of Rafael Bonachela's 21 for Rambert Dance Company apparently comes from its musical structure: three seven-minute sections, with replications of those numbers in the composition's fine detail as well. Is that all? It seems hardly impressive, to choose a title with such throwaway arbitrariness, especially when your piece has been trumpeted as including elaborate film effects, a theme concerned with the modern phenomenon of celebrity and the participation of popster Kylie Minogue.
Ah, Kylie. A while back, Bonachela (recently appointed Rambert's associate choreographer) received an unexpected invitation to choreograph for her. He became acquainted with William Baker and Alan Macdonald, the creative team behind Kylie's Fever tour and now responsible for the 21's staging. In the middle section, her film image, projected on a transparent front scrim, looms 10 times larger than life, which is what celebrities tend to be. The camera focuses on her face, her blue mascara-ed eyes, a hand that reaches out, then seems to stab melodramatically into her chest. It pans over her body, clad in a long evening dress, which is a darned sight more attractive than the dingy white underwear, imposed on the dancers behind her.
Kylie towers over their moving Lilliputian figures, obfuscating the choreography because I couldn't cope with so much conflicting information - a frequent problem in the current trend for mixing live dancers with virtual imagery. But maybe that wasn't such a loss, judging by the strained angular moves of the other sections, feet exaggeratedly turned out, postures jerkily joined up. A trio of women pulls each other's limbs in what evidently symbolises manipulation. Benjamin Wallfisch's music screeches out long violin chords mixed with rattles and whispers, then lurches into pounding electronics at the end.
21 was the closing piece of a triple bill that started with another London premiere. Hans van Manen's masterly Visions Fugitives is also called after its music (Prokofiev), but it also really does present Fugitive Visions. Each short dance cameo is so distinctive, so intriguing that time flies past. Right from the start, you're gripped by the opening figure of Paul Liburd, standing with his back to you, one hip jutting, one arm extending. The duos, solos and groups that follow are like vivid dance haikus: a man weaves about a woman with small tripping steps; a group exits in joined-up caterpillar style, two dancers dropping off to stay behind; a couple face each other, clutching hands and alternately pushing and pulling.
But underneath run sinister threads. When a line of dancers suddenly freezes you notice that one of them seems to be staggering, as if hit by a bullet. Then, at the end Liburd, alone with Miranda Lind, strangles her. Most sinister of all, is the closing image, the rest of the cast returning to form a milling crowd that takes no notice of Lind's dead body crumpled like a rag on the floor.
With choreography and performers like this, Rambert's new director Mark Baldwin has gold in his coffer. With Christopher Bruce's wonderful, ever popular Ghost Dances as the remaining piece, the evening is well worth a journey, even - or especially - if you leave after Ghost Dances and before 21.Reuse content