Theatre review: Rooster at Sadler’s Wells

A scene from Rooster by Christopher Bruce and Rambert Dance Company -
photo by �Tristram Kenton

A scene from Rooster by Christopher Bruce and Rambert Dance Company - photo by �Tristram Kenton - Credit: �Tristram Kenton

For 13 years, Christopher Bruce’s homage to the Swinging 60s has not seen so much as a flicker of theatre lights – but last week it exploded back onto the stage in all its cock-strutting glory.

Drawing from Bruce’s own psychedelic past, Rooster sees five velvet-suited men attempt to woo a group of pretty young things as they dance to eight classic Rolling Stones tracks.

Leading the pack is one of Rambert’s finest performers, Miguel Altunaga, who oozes rock god-esque charisma as he strides around the space like a hungry bird on the prowl. Loose-hipped movements are interspersed with sharp head jerks while he preens himself for the night ahead only stopping to slick back his hair and straighten his tie.

These gestures reoccur as the piece thumps along through the band’s repertoire: from Paint It Black, where the fight for affection turns into a passionate battle of the sexes, to Ruby Tuesday, when Antonette Dayrit dressed in a flowing red gown is memorably tossed high into the air.

Sandwiched between Rooster on this programme of revivals is Soundance by choreographic giant Merce Cunningham. Not to everyone’s taste, this frantic and technically punishing piece set to David Tudor’s pulsating score (think jungle noises meet high-pitched interference) unfolds as a sea of bodies change from one kaleidoscope-like formation to another.

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Cunningham’s influences are also clear in the less accomplished opener Four Elements by Lucinda Childs, but with its repetition of restrained linear sequences the piece treads a fine line between minimalist and bland.

Finishing off the mixed bill is Richard Alston’s three-minute – and all too fleeting – solo dating from 1977. Dane Hurst dances with mathematical precision to a sound poem by Charles Amirkhanian, which repeats the delightfully nonsensical phrase ‘dutiful ducks’. Try saying that when you’ve had a few glasses of wine.

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Rating: Three stars

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