The dance company Rambert returns to Brighton with this triple-bill, combining the title piece The 3 Dancers with two further new performances, Hydrargyrum and Transfigured Night. As so often with mixed bills, it’s hard to know what to expect overall; the effect is a bit like a lucky dip, and how much you connect with the combination of works is at least partly down to chance.
Hydrargyrum is Latin for “mercury” – and, while I really wanted to like this opening piece, it was simply too confusing and abstract for my taste. I can appreciate what they were trying to portray, but it's a huge undertaking to represent an element (liquid mercury) live on stage and still imbue the piece with meaning. The repetitive movement and grating music just didn't do it for me.
The title piece and finale, The 3 Dancers, is far less busy and correspondingly easier to enjoy. An interpretation of the Picasso painting of the same name, the performers capture the essence of the story behind the original – with its themes of jealousy and passion, and the tension those emotions can create. Among a series of pleasing moments, highlights include the representation of manipulation through the suggestion of puppetry and marionettes. The use of mirroring and the dancers’ poise added to the gravitas of the piece too.
But my favourite piece by far was Transfigured Night. With a storyline to hang the movements on, for me, this was the most interesting of the three pieces. Based on Arnold Schoenberg’s 1899 sextet Verklärte Nacht, itself an interpretation of an earlier poem, it follows the story of a relationship in deep trouble. I particularly appreciated how choreographer Kim Brandstrup explores the possibility of a happy ending, amidst the reality and complexity of a relationship in turmoil. Among the dancer, local boy Liam Francis stood out by a mile; with balletic movements and an athletic grace to match, his duet was the highlight of the whole evening for me.
All in all, I found this mixed bill something of a mixed bag. Nevertheless, there are several strong moments, and plenty of experimental content to appeal to contemporary dance fans.