A century ago, beautiful dancing was everything in ballet. But not long afterward, Antony Tudor and other emerging choreographers created a bold, penetrating style of dance expression, exploring daring themes through a classicism rooted in realistic gesture. And Tudor first introduced his innovations through the London ensemble now called Rambert Dance Company.
Currently, however, Rambert pursues a divided aesthetic: Beautiful dancing is everything again--but daring themes are also on the agenda. And it doesn't work, not even with a fabulous new Rambert cast for Christopher Bruce's "Swansong" at the Veterans Wadsworth Theater on Friday.
What would Tudor have thought of a ballet in which a torture victim traced exquisite classical shapes in the air during a brutal interrogation scene? No matter that Simon Cooper and Steven Brett exuded malignant power as the tap-dancing villains or that Conor O'Brien gave the doomed prisoner astonishing complexity and depth along with superb mastery of Bruce's swirling vocabulary. The gulf between style and subject remained impossibly wide.
The company's honeyed virtuosity looked far more plausible in Bruce's "Stream," an artful, impressionistic 1996 nature study drenched in water images starting with a liquid pas de deux for Patricia Hines and Laurent Cavanna but ending with a mating dance for Didy Veldman and Paul Liburd that suggested wild creatures on a savanna--something like gazelles with claws. As with "Swansong," a sound score by Philip Chambon resourcefully enhanced the movement design.
Bruce's previously reviewed "Rooster" completed the program.
* Rambert Dance Company moves to the Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m. $10-$35. (714) 556-ARTS.