> Three by Rambert [DD]: Classical DVD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Intimate Pages, Choreography by Christopher Bruce, Music by Janacek
Lonely Town, Lonely Street, Choreography by Robert North, Music written and performed by Bill Withers
Sergeant Early’s Dream, Choreography by Christopher Bruce
Rambert Dance Company, directed and produced by Thomas Grimm.
ADR / RM ARTS Co-Production in Association with CHANNEL FOUR
Recorded 1986
DVD Aspect ratio 4:3
ARTHAUS MUSIK 100284 (101 minutes)


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This diverse and enjoyable DVD-V should be of interest not only to experienced ballet lovers who will already be familiar with the work of The Rambert Dance Company, but also to those in the early stages of exploring ballet.

It consists of three varied pieces each one quite different from its companions both in terms of the music and the style of dance.

The works concerned are:

Intimate Pages danced to the music of Janáček’s second string quartet, and choreographed by Christopher Bruce.

Lonely Town, Lonely Street, performed to the music and vocals of Bill Withers with choreography by Robert North.

Sergeant Early’s Dream where, as in the Janacek, the choreographer is Christopher Bruce. This work is set to a number of British, American, and Irish folksongs played and sung in what I assume to be a traditional style by a group of seven musicians.

The copyright of this disc is dated 1985, but the sound and the picture quality of all the works was totally acceptable played through a Toshiba 36 inch wide-screen television and Chord Electronics/B&W N802 sound system.

For me normally the principal attraction of a ballet is inspired by a liking for the music. In this case it was Intimate Pages, the appeal of which lay in the Janáček second string quartet played by the eponymously named Janáček Quartet. This is a favourite work of mine which I have enjoyed hearing them perform live, although I have always understood the title attributed to the piece to be "Intimate Letters".

To my eyes the choreography, sets, and costumes all harmonised well with my expectations. The costumes are elegant, and the dance movements exemplified what I was hoping for in a modern interpretation of relatively modern music whose characterful and at times deeply lyrical sonorities still have a freshness and intensity after more than seventy years.

Six dancers perform with fluidity and grace to most of their movements, apart from some occasional ugly positions of the feet whose significance was lost on me.

Generally I felt that the choreography matched the passion and unique harmonies of Janáček’s music admirably. For me this was a musical experience in which the addition of dance in no way detracted from the music, yet added an extra dimension which I believe would bear repeated viewing. However, complementary though the dancing was to the music, I will not abandon this work on CD as I feel that the two formats offer alternative forms of gratification.

Lonely Town, Lonely Streets is something entirely different from the Janáček. Here we have a “Jazz Ballet” which comprises seven scenes each danced to a different song, in a set depicting night- time in a run-down area of a North American city. The action centres upon a lonely person trying to integrate into this environment, and the eight dancers involved convey the passion, energy, as well as the hostility and threatening nature of such an urban environment. Although the music provided by Bill Withers is far removed from Janáček, both it and the dancing, which is strongly athletic without a hint of the "classical", held my attention and provided a welcome broadening of my view of what nowadays constitutes ballet. Certainly it is a piece to which I would return.

The final work, Sergeant Early’s Dream proved to be the real eye-opener, and for me the highlight of the disc. I’m relatively unfamiliar with "folk music", although I have always been drawn to the plaintive quality of some Gaelic music. Well plaintive sounds there are, but as the piece contains no less than fifteen different songs there is a very broad range of styles, moods, and emotions, and the whole work proved to be a total delight not least for its sheer sense of fun. Fun is not a response that my preconceptions had led me to expect, neither was the ability of the nine dancers to convey, not only by gestures but also by facial expressions, such a diverse range of emotions. Their agility athleticism and strength I had taken for granted, but their acting was a revelation, and I found myself enchanted by the grace and versatility of their movements. The musicians too complemented the dancing admirably. Friends to whom I have shown this piece have without exception found it highly entertaining.

I believe that the entire disc makes an ideal, well balanced introduction to the modern dance form (not a tutu in sight), and will give pleasure to tyro and expert alike. Certainly it is one which will be added to my collection.
David Dyer

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