Rooster Ballet Rambert Festival Theatre

Ballet Rambert’s current tour features three pieces – two new and one old. The old one, Christopher Bruce’s Rooster from 1991, features eight fantastic early Stones hits and is, I suspect, the main draw for most of the audience. However, the other two pieces, Shobana Jeyasingh’s Terra Incognita and Barak Marshall’s The Castaways, are both very different and well worth seeing.

Terra Incognita or “unknown land” is described by choreographer Jeyasingh as “a dance work in three parts inspired by ideas and images of journeys, difference and distance”. I’m glad I read that before I saw the work as it helped me to better understand the imagery produced by the dancers. It is an intriguing and challenging piece which evokes the spirit of exploration and discovery. The music, by Gabriel Prokofiev, is at times discordant and unsettling, but beautifully played by Rambert’s own orchestra.

I loved the second piece, the Castaways, which is a piece of dance theatre rather than pure contemporary dance. Set to an eclectic mix of music including traditional Yiddish, Balkan folk and American swing, twelve characters are trapped in a kind of limbo and are compelled to re-enact the unhappy scenarios of their lives which they cannot escape. An emcee introduces us to the characters – a French soldier, a jilted bride, three mean girls, a dreamer, arguing lovers. It is funny and energetic, but also at times poignant and emotional. The dancers whirl and leap around the stage and the whole piece seems to flash by, there is so much to engage the attention.

And so to the final piece that everyone has been waiting for and yes, it is well worth the wait. Stones fans will love the music – classics such as Play with Fire, Not Fade Away, Sympathy for the Devil and of course Little Red Rooster.

I love a live orchestra but thankfully this time they are not playing, we have the original Stones recordings. And much as I love Mick Jagger and admire his athleticism, we get no parody of his famous moves. Christopher Bruce has taken Little Red Rooster as his starting point and “created preening cockerels that symbolise the stylish but chauvinistic young men of my youth”. The male dancers strut their stuff across the stage putting on a display for the admiring females. Every move is perfectly choreographed to the spirit of the music from the pounding beat and high leaps of Paint it Black to the ethereal beauty and grace of Lady Jane, building to the satanically majestic crescendo of Sympathy for the Devil.

Overall, this is another perfectly formed programme from Rambert and a wonderful evening of dance.

Irene Brownlee