Inspired by Andersen’s The Little Match Girl and the plight of refugees, this artful collaboration between Rambert and the Royal Ballet is as incomprehensible as it is adventurous.
The opening film shows two exotically dressed women washing up on a beach. Strangers in a strange land, their costumes suggest that they come from not just another country but another century.
Following an encounter with a group of men and women dancing in some kind of paganistic ritual, they enter an unfamiliar city. The curtain rises and seven of Rambert’s finest deliver a live and lengthy section of dance.
They slip through various modish postures – jolting shoulders and muscle cracking bends; spine-testing, limbo-like backbends slowed down to the snail-speed of butoh. As the vivid aural soundscape settles into a relentless thudding beat, they jerk in rhythm as though their hearts are trying to ram their way out of their rib cages. Behind them, projections of Lynch-like corridors make them appear to be travelling deeper into the interior of a virtual metropolis.
Individual moments leave an indelible impression – the figures on stage mirroring their gigantic simulacra on screen, overseeing a flashmob of hundreds of dancers; the sudden intervention of demi-pliés and pas des bourrees among the Wayne McGregor-ish contortions; the music box containing a miniature ballerina made of golden light; and the icon-like appearance of the two women who might have escaped from Sergei Parajanov’s Armenian masterpiece, The Color of Pomegranates.
But the separate elements remain disassociated and fail to cohere into any kind of meaning or purpose, even on an impressionistic level. It is no more or less than a series of intermittently engaging, flickering abstractions.