Christopher Bruce’s masterpiece Ghost Dances, one of the most celebrated pieces of its generation and choreographed by him for Rambert in the early 1980s, is coming to the Norwich Theatre Royal this October to once again pay an evocative tribute to the victims of political oppression in South America.
Dealing with the period of dictatorships that Latin American population suffered from, the play is still relevant in a political matter and, as its artistic director Mark Baldwin tells Judy Foster, it “is forty-years-old but it speaks to today’s audience as much as it did all that time ago”.
“It was commissioned by Free Chile about all the people that were going missing then and that message is still relevant today. That‘s why it’s exciting that we have brought it back. A Chilean refugee will be singing on tour with us, so it is a genuine voice of this kind of music.”
Liam Francis, one of the piece’s main dancers, highlighted in conversation with Judy Foster the importance of the play’s political message. “It is a really historic piece of dance and it is important to retain the essence of what it represents. The oppression in South America – there are still elements of that being dealt with today. So there’s that responsibility.”
However, the play is not only a powerful political piece but has also a hugely celebrated choreographic and artistic value. Christopher Bruce had been one of the first generation of choreographers to combine classical ballet with modern dance techniques, coming up with his own language which “opened up the whole chocolate box of how dancers move these days and how they are engaged in a work”, Mark said.
“Everyone in the piece is dead because it is based on the Mexican Day of the Dead. The ghosts are dressed in masks and full make-up and as you look at the costumes for the villagers, half are disintegrated and the other half intact – and the ghosts are taking them to the other side.”
Liam also emphasised the sense of community that the play’s choreography creates.
“Although you are playing quite a poignant, significant part in the piece, it’s not about you. It’s about the three of you. It’s just the most extraordinary experience because you are on stage and you are with two other men and regardless of your height, your build, your colour, anything about your body really, you all just merge into one, which is wonderful because then you are dancing as one body, one energy on stage”, Liam said.
“There is something wonderful when you are moving – you can feel the air on your skin, the feathers are flowing in the air but you face is covered by a skull mask. So there is the freedom of your body being really free in the space but there is a lack of identity due to the body paint and the mask, so you feel absolute freedom.”
Christopher Bruce continues to be one of the main figures in British dance. Together with The days run away like wild horses by Aletta Colins and Symbiosis by Andonis Foniadakis, his production is brought to Norwich Theatre Royal by Rambert on October 19 at 7.30pm, and on October 20 at 1.30pm and 7.30pm.