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Christopher Bruce's Triple Bill
Silence is the End of Our Song (1983) - Royal Danish Ballet, music by Victor Para, Violetta Parra and Horacio Salinas;
Rooster (1994) - Geneva Ballet, music by The Rolling Stones;
Swansong (1989) - English National Ballet, music by Philip Chambon.
rec. DR-studios Arhus, Denmark
ARTHAUS MUSIK 100 426 [104:00] 
 

 


Christopher Bruce is best known for his use of dance to draw attention to human rights abuses, winning an award from Amnesty International for this work. Two of the pieces here are from that strand of his work. The third, 'Rooster' is a mockingly satirical and exuberant work drawing on the culture of the 1960s and early 1970s and choreographed to hits from The Rolling Stones. This goes some way towards giving both a counterbalancing viewing experience to what could be a gloomy if worthwhile audience experience, and demonstrating Bruce's very considerable versatility as a choreographer. 

Silence is the End of Our Song is set in Chile following the military coup which ousted President Allende, and follows Bruce's piece created two years earlier about South America, Ghost Dances. It pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the revolution, those who have 'disappeared' and those who try to maintain optimism in everyday life even under a brutal and oppressive regime. 

Swansong is a powerful trio, depicting a prisoner being tortured to death. It is in my opinion the most skilful and moving piece on the disc. This is a studio recording by the original three dancers, but it loses none of the sharpness and dramatic tension of a live performance of the work. It uses only an electronic score and a few simple props but is an immense work in its moral power. It has achieved rightful acclaim and has been performed many times by various companies. 

Rooster, a very different work, also achieved great popularity, helped by its catchy sound-track of Rolling Stones hits. It entertainingly re-captures the times it portrays. 

The camera position throughout is as if from a good seat in the stalls. This gives a straightforward and ungimmicky viewing experience which is always clear, better in fact, than if watching in the theatre. These works were performed and thus popularised in Britain by London Contemporary Dance Theatre, who have now sadly disbanded. Here they are recorded instead by other companies, who were in fact commissioners of the works concerned. Performance - both music and dance - and filming are all excellent and cannot be faulted. 

The only fault one can level at this offering is perhaps that, it shows one side or aspect of this versatile choreographer's work. However, if he were to be remembered for only one style of work, it is likely that he would choose this one. It is at times important rather than uplifting viewing but shows the power of artistic expression in a political context.

Julie Williams

 

 

 

 


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