Dance Ambassador Alex Speake continues her story of her visit to Rambert and uncovers more about Rambert’s new piece The Three Dancers – coming to The Lowry soon!
At first, being lead into the Marie Rambert studio to view a rehearsal of ‘The Three Dancers’ was extremely intimidating. Not only due to the acclaim that Rambert have as a dance company, but also the excitement I had built up as I researched the details and explanation of the piece.
‘The Three Dancers’ is a Picasso painting that choreographer Didy Veldman studied in great detail in order for her composition to represent the true story behind the canvas. When it was first painted in 1925, Picasso was seemingly overwhelmed with thoughts of sex and violence after his friends death lead to the attempted murder of the widow he left with whom, interestingly Picasso had had an affair with 25 years previously. These unfortunate events lead to the demise of the attempted murderer as, after failing to kill the woman caught between the men, he turned the knife on himself.
Fortunately, the feeling of intimidation as I walked into the dance studio didn’t last long. The atmosphere that the dancers and choreographer were creating were not that of a stressed team, preparing copiously for their performances, but in fact of a group of performers working together to express their characters in the best way possible within Veldman’s excellent choreographic ideas.
For me, this is the main difference between what I saw in the studio and what I, and many others will see when the piece is performed on stage. Although the setting, costumes and lighting were all missing, it was fascinating to see the development of motifs and movements from the choreographer herself, which were then worked practically in the space and then fit in with the music and other performers.
The exercise of watching this type of rehearsal is also a remarkable way of seeing how the choreographer works on a primary, studio level – which was very different to what I expected. We’ve all seen low budget, American dance films where the passive aggressive, scarf clad choreographer disgraces a dancer for not performing their movements exactly how they dreamed them. However, Veldman has a very different method of creating than just teaching the performers her steps.
In a conversation we had with her after the rehearsal we mentioned how her dancers had such a large input on the steps they were performing on stage as for them, this seemed to be the foundation on which the performance was created. She explaining to us how it is important for her that the dancers are a part of the development of the choreography as then they should understand and know the work as well as she does, therefore being able to establish a connection and perform as their characters completely.
Within this thought process it is also enticing to see how Veldman has been able to draw upon Picasso’s own development of cubism in her piece. She uses this technique to show the emotions of its characters in their simplest form yet stay far away from getting stuck in a narrative structure.
With this foundation in place, Veldman has allowed the development of the piece to amaze the future audience with an almost tangible connection between the performers and the characters they portray, as well as retaining an effortless excellence within the movement itself. The cast for this production have clearly not been chosen so that it satisfies people’s expectations of what each dancer should look like, but rather to discard thoughts on ideal body image for dancers whose performance fits best with Veldman’s choreographic techniques. Within the up-close and personal space of the studio the six dancers still worked to perform with graceful ease which only excites me for seeing them dance again at The Lowry, with the added value of lighting and costume.
As in every dance piece, the backbone of the production is the music. For ‘The Three Dancers’ this was by Australian composer, Elena Kats-Chernin. Commissioned jointly by many organizations including the Wimbledon International Music festival, The Australian Festival of Chamber Music and Sitka Summer Music Festival to name a few; it was originally written as music to be performed alone, without any accompanying art form. However, Veldman’s choreography and the company’s performance make it hard to believe they weren’t both crafted together. The strong, tango like rhythm gives an insight into the dancers and allows them to demonstrate their formulated emotions in an incredibly strong and passionate way, allowing the audience to see them without the need for a narrative background.
Veldman’s plans for costume and set are another surprise to what an audience would expect. Not choosing to use the bright colours often associated with Picasso, instead, stripping back any layers that could cloud the audience from the dance, opting for a minimalist monochrome aesthetic.
It premieres on the 28th of September at Theatre Royal Plymouth and is being performed as part of ‘Dark Arteries’ at The Lowry from the 30th of September to the 2nd of October. ‘The Three Dancers’ is set to be a piece that you will want to go home and investigate, to create your own opinion on the true story not only behind the movement but behind the canvas as well.