Where is Rambert going? Britain's oldest dance company has a mixed policy, balancing new commissions and established works. Director Mark Baldwin hasn't had much luck with new works lately. In this evening at Sadler's Wells, only the oldest dance had any energy.
Infinity is unnervingly bad. Its Australian choreographer, Garry Stewart, drops in any number of dance and New Age clichés, bundling them together without thought or focus. Stewart hopes to present the processes of life – birth, death, that kind of thing – through clasped prayer hands and yoga headstands. In between the Om poses, the dancers rush around with aimless speed.
The whole production is a clutch of recycled ideas. Gaelle Mellis's set, a shower of fake red petals, suggests that someone has seen some traditional Japanese theatre. Luke Smiles' music is a collage of electronic hums plus gongs and falling water. Nothing about Infinity flatters Rambert, from the waffling philosophy to Georg Meyer-Wiel's costumes, flapping white robes with fussy lace-up panels.
At least Christopher Bruce's Swansong has direction and purpose. This 1987 work, newly revived this season, shows Dane Hurst as a prisoner, sitting trapped in spotlight. Eryck Brahmania and Renaud Wiser are his guards. They slip disconcertingly into soft-shoe routines, swing canes as if they might be weapons, mock Hurst by forcing a clown's red nose onto his face. This tidy performance lacks menace, but Bruce's points come over clearly.
The evening opens glumly. Melanie Teall's L'Eveil is interesting only for its music, with Melanie Marshall singing Kurt Weill live on stage. She's more vivid than any of the dancing. Teall's dancers, women in black bathing costumes, mope and pose. When Marshall switches to the Nina Simone number "Feeling Good", they do some very basic chorus line strutting. Karole Armitage's Gran Partita, new this year, has already faded. On its first outing, Armitage's steps had some academic precision; they've now sagged into the blandest of exercises.
Over at The Place is a distinctive and unexpectedly appealing show by the Chinese dancer Jin Xing. As a child, he trained with a military dance ensemble, later reaching the rank of colonel. After studying in New York, he returned to China for the country's first officially approved sex change operation. Now 40, she lives in Shanghai, where she directs her own dance company.
The Closest – The Furthest is a dotty mixture of a show. On the one hand, it's a solemn examination of the guqin, a seven-stringed Chinese instrument. On the other, it's a burbling stream-of-consciousness, covering lighting design, Jin Xing's own dance career and the traffic in Shanghai. It's a near thing, but it works.
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