How exiting to go to a premiere! And to see the Rambert Dance Company, whom I have followed for many years.
Eternal Light sounded very promising. Live music always adds to the occasion for me - it is wonderful to experience the co-operation of all the artists - the orchestra, singers and dancers - so I was very much looking forward to my evening. (And Sadler’s Wells is only 15 minutes from Southbank after all!)
Unfortunately, I am dismayed to report that is was a shocking experience, as both artists displayed a strange ignorance of each others' art. The music - by Howard Goodall with Latin texts, sung beautifully - was a cheap pastiche of the Catholic Latin mass, deep and meaningful for people who know either Latin or the mass, and incomprehensible to the rest. For the choreographer, Mark Baldwin, this seemed just a pretext for pretty - though actually pretty repetitive - movements.
But it was the counter-positioning of music and movement that really hurt. 'Qui tollis peccata mundi’ ('who takes away the sins') was shown as a duet with a dancer in a bright green baby-doll dress, spreading her legs and showing her undies very deliberately. I doubt she was meant to impersonate sin - it seemed just meaningless and gratuitously offensive to people who knew the meaning. Imagine if the Koran was used as a basic text in this way, or the Bhagavad Gita, or a sacred Jewish Text. Would anyone dare? So why use a Christian text in this way? Why dress it up like serious music and then ignore the meaning? I was baffled, and then very annoyed. The dancers were excellent - they really deserved better than this. Ballet Rambert is in fine shape, it was this choreography that actually felt abusive to both them and to the audience.
The staging was equally naff, or offensive, depending on tolerance levels. When the subject of the music was ‘In Flanders poppies grow’, a deeply moving poem about the slaughter in the first World War, huge pink sparkling crosses moved up and down. Why? In my opinion this was an insult to the soldiers dying there, especially with dancers who were dressed in what seemed like Flamenco outfits - bare chests and flirty trousers. The hundreds of thousands of dead in Flanders were not honoured by this charade. This was emotionally empty, pretentious drivel that should never have seen the stage - especially at Sadler’s Wells.
In the interval I overheard a couple complimenting the ‘divine’ music. Yes, it was - once upon a time.