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Rambert: The Creation, London, November 2016

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Whilst the ROH was resounding with the noise (as some say) of a new McGregor piece, Sadler's Wells was filled last night with a fine performance of Haydn's ever colourful The Creation, providing the motive force for Mark Baldwin's contemporary work for Rambert.  This had been premiered at Garsington Opera back in the summer, using the same Gothic tracery screen, behind which sat an orchestra and chorus (the BBC Singers), with conductor (Paul Hoskins) and soloists visible in arched openings.  So, on that foundation, and with Sarah Tynan, James Gilchrist and Neal Davie in front, the music was never less than assured.


For his choreography, Mark Baldwin had elected to "go beyond pure interpretation and into the realm of pure dance."  To my mind, he succeeded only in part, and I'm left uncertain whether contemporary movement is enough to sustain a work of this length - and there were moments when some very odd poses were being struck, surely of some significance to him, but rather lost on me.  But, on the whole, it was worth seeing - and certainly worth hearing - and it clearly went down well with the audience.



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The first thing to say was that the talent on display at Sadler's Wells last night - for Rambert's 'The Creation' - was copious. Bringing such high quality dancers, musicians and singers together into one grand performance is a particular pleasure – I remember feeling the same about David Bintley's Carmina Burana last year. The three forces, when working together to deliver a precise effect can be just breathtaking. And there were exhilarating moments like that in last night's performance, especially when the stage was full of fast moving dancers, and chorus, orchestra and singers united to deliver the joyous end section of each day.


But I couldn't help feeling that this was also a show which forwent many of the opportunities on offer. Mark Baldwin asserts in his programme note: 'I think it's important not to be too literal', and who could disagree with that? But perhaps through being so focused on that dictum, there were times when dance and oratorio seemed to be pulling against each other rather than working together to celebrate the meaning of Milton's words. Frankly, the whole concept seemed to me to work best when a bit of literalism was allowed to break through, as in the sections set in Eden, where – presumably unavoidably – the dancers style of movement, and their relationship to each other, conveyed their affection. I was looking out for the 'odd poses' to which Ian Macmillan referred (and frankly there were plenty to choose from!) but I never felt the dance style itself became distracting as can happen with some contemporary performances.


For me, dance (classical and contemporary) is at its most powerful expressing emotion or at least something relational. It wouldn't be my first choice medium to express abstract, unemotional concepts like 'chaos' or 'light'. So parts of The Creation were always going to be a challenge! It was noticeable that fluidity and common purpose of dance and music seemed greater (and therefore more satisfying) in the second half of the performance when the process of creation had advanced to the animal and human stages!


In amongst all this, there was no faulting the prowess of the lead dancers – their energy and precision was really impressive – and singers, orchestra and chorus were all outstandingly good. Costumes left me slightly puzzled – the dancers were dressed in lycra suits with tassles, ruffs and bobbles which gave them a pierrot-esque appearance. Maybe it was pierrot as everyman, certainly it gave the individual dancers a kind of anonymity. The set was striking – a screen of gothic tracery in front of which the dancers performed with orchestra and singers on stage behind – and worked well practically and visually


An enjoyable and interesting evening full of talent and ambition.

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I saw this on Saturday and can't add very much to what Ian and Richard have already said. It was a musical feast in which the dance presented as a master class in perpetuum mobile which fitted the music even if it wasn't always easy to work out exactly what it was supposed to represent. The orchestra, chorus and soloists were all superb and the on-stage setting in which they sang and played behind a visually exquisite gothic screen was extraordinarily effective.


Richard mentioned the costumes, for the most part unitards with ruffs. I found that this gave them something of a Tudor feel. Again it was difficult to square this with the Creation theme but they did sit very well with the gothic screen and they were a distinct improvement on the insipid underwear favoured by so many of today's contemporary choreographers.


I found the choreography somewhat same-ish although skilfully danced. And there was one part which definitely reminded me of the zombie dance in the Thriller video.

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