It’s always sad when dance companies retire rep, but it’s a fact of the life cycle of a dance company and paves the way for new work to be created.
But sometimes when a company tours a show for the last time, it seems a little sadder than usual. That’s how I felt when I heard the news that Rambert were doing a final tour of Ghost Dances by Christopher Bruce.
I have danced my whole life and up until the age of fifteen all I knew was ballet or musical theatre. The dance school I went to was the sort of place that is great if you’re a triple threat; but I hate acting and certainly can’t sing.
On the other end of the spectrum lies ballet, and I was certainly not a natural born ballerina either. So when, at age 15, I stepped into the dance studio at my secondary school and was introduced to contemporary dance it was like I had found the happy medium I’d been looking for ; dance that could tell a story artistically. No singing. No theatrics.
Rambert was the embodiment of this for me and I still remember now the poster for Rooster (also by Bruce) plastered on the walls of the dance studio at school. But the first bit of rep I saw from the company, on a DVD played through a wheelie telly, was Ghost Dances.
It told a story that was easy to understand unlike many other pieces of dance we were forced to watch at the time (teenage me just couldn’t wrap my head around Siobhan Davies’ Birdsong) but it didn’t have the pomp of ballet that alienated me.
It was more relaxed but still technically jaw dropping.
Since then, I’ve always loved Ghost Dances and it has held a place in my heart as the first piece that made me sit up and pay attention to contemporary dance. There’s something timeless about those haunting panpipes and the slow unison movements of the three ‘ghost dancers’ that gave me goosebumps. And then of course the heartbreaking duets that unfold as the characters tell their stories – it’s hard not to be touched by something that was made in tribute to such a horrific genocide.
I had always harboured these feelings about Ghost Dances, but they had merely been conjured from me watching old recordings of Rambert performing Bruce’s work and never live.
But for my birthday this year my housemates kindly bought me tickets for one of the final performances of Ghost Danes at Sadler’s Wells as part of a quadruple bill with Rambert2.
As suspected, it affirmed to me just how timeless and iconic this piece of dance will be to me personally and no doubt hundreds of others.
Although it is being retired from Rambert’s rep, the fact that it inspired me for ten years – during my GCSE’s to graduating with a BA Hons in Dance – without even seeing it in the flesh is testament to the impact the work will have for years to come.
I hope it continues to inspire.