Rambert’s Rooster

Reviewer's Rating

It’s an outrage that this piece of Rambert’s repertoire has lain dormant for so long. Dusted off after a 13 year hiatus, ‘Rooster’ explodes onto the stage once more.

The production also features a range of old and new choreography and a virtual smorgasbord of music.

Who knew physics could look good? The performance opens with Mark Baldwin’s ‘The Strange Charm of Mother Nature’. Inspired by the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, of all things, the dancers and their different coloured Lycra costumes represent different quarks – bear with me – as they revolve around and eventually collide into one another. The piece has several movements to a score featuring Bach, Stravinsky and contemporary composer Cheryl Frances Hoad. The use of lighting – a horizontal coloured beam against a dark backdrop – recalls the Collider. The dancers, execute sharp, elegant lines to evoke the complex relationships between particles. The performance is an intimidating demonstration of discipline, elegance and spectacular technique. The sequences, however, aren’t particularly distinctive in terms of choreography and the piece drags on a bit. The answer is yes, physics can look good, but not for long.

Richard Alston’s ‘Dutiful Ducks’ is a solo to the poem, or ‘text-sound piece’, of the same title by Charles Amirkhanian. The idea, beautifully embodied by Dane Hurst, is that the performer and the audience respond to the sound, rather than the (here illogical) meaning of the words. In places the claps of the score and Hurst’s body blur to interesting effect. Short and sweet, the piece successfully ponders the concept of language as music.

We then get Merce Cunningham’s ‘Sounddance’, performed to David Tudor’s disturbing electronic score that blurs insect-like sounds with those of machines. Spinning out from golden curtains which are draped across the back of the stage, the cast multiplies throughout the piece. The choreography develops an atmosphere of delirium: the dancers come together in ritualistic patterns, roll apart and dance as if in a fevered trance, then regroup as a single, heaving organism. After some creative lifts and mirroring, they gradually spin back into the curtains. Because ‘Sounddance’ is the best piece of the night so far, you forget it’s all been building up to the grand finale…

‘Rooster’ is an exuberant tribute to the 60s and 70s, danced to the hits of the Rolling Stones. The male dancers in colourful suits strut like cockerels, and the playful tone permeates even the more serious movements. The choreography is textured and the cast glide effortlessly through each emotional pas de deux, ecstatic solo and funky group routine. The piece has a strong sense of narrative direction, and the vibrant characters have an overwhelmingly jubilant energy. The piece also showcases Miguel Altunaga as an exceptional dancer with attitude. You can’t help but feel good as you walk, or dance your way out of the theatre. Let’s hope Rambert don’t put ‘Rooster’ back on the shelf again anytime soon.