Rambert Dance, Sadler's Wells, London

The golden oldie of dance still rules the roost
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The Independent Culture

Celebrating its 75th birthday this week, Rambert is Britain's oldest dance company but also the liveliest. You should have heard the cheers that greeted Christopher Bruce's Rolling Stones ballet Rooster at last night's opening, with its comic but spot-on evocation of the Sixties in all its swaggering macho arrogance and occasionally devastating feminist response.

Leading the acclaim for this golden oldie were the mainly young promenaders who took advantage of the special Sadler's Wells offer of standing places at the front of the stalls for a mere £5.

Bruce has more than once tried to retire Rooster, leaving room to move on to other things, but the public just will not let him. They love its sheer entertainment value, the liveliness of its characters, the energy of the dances, the witty effrontery of its comedy. Not to mention the music, eight of the Stones' most popular songs. And who's to say the public is wrong in this?

Besides, to provide the creativity Rambert takes pride in, both the other works in this programme are new productions (with three more premieres to come next week ­ beat that if you can).

Jeremy James used to be a Rambert dancer but went on to make a name as one of our most original young choreographers with his own company. His premature death last year scuppered plans for him to create a new piece for the Rambert anniversary, so here instead is one he made earlier for one of his own dancers.

Called Cheese, it corresponds to Rooster in taking as its starting point a social dance style, but in this case a style of today, not history, and approached in a very different way. It is Peter Morris's club music that brings in the brashness of the contemporary scene, while the dances are more abstract. I think they might have made more impact if not hampered by the abominable current fashion for performing in semi-darkness.

The keystone holding the programme together between these two frivolities is the Rambert premiere of Symphony of Psalms a masterwork by one of Europe's most sought-after choreographers, Jiri Kylian.

The music is Stravinsky's great orchestral and choral treatment of religious texts, which inspired Kylian to a monumental expression of human nature at its most resilient and dedicated. The over-riding solemnity still leaves scope for swift, thrusting solos and several duets of closely involved manoeuvres. William Katz's set design, too, ingeniously combines the religious and the secular with chairs that could only come from a church and a backing of richly red oriental carpets.

On top form, the Rambert company rose to the occasion with masterly performances of all the works, reinforced in the Stravinsky by the playing of its regular orchestra, the London Musici, with the New London Chamber Choir, Paul Hoskins conducting. Teamwork at the highest level is the hallmark of the whole show.

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