Ghost Dances is the voice of the dead. Made by Christopher Bruce for Rambert in 1981 to bring to life the passion, happiness and fight of those murdered by Augusto Pinochet; inspired by his meeting with dancer Joan Jara and the death of her husband, Victor, after Pinochet’s 1973 coup; this story is a tender one. Drawing on various Latin American imagery throughout, particularly costumes and rituals associated with the Day of the Dead, this performance has allowed their souls and cause to live on.
The first of three dances is a sharply choreographed piece by Aletta Collins. The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses is about a woman and her memories. She sits alone in her living room while her life gradually reconstructs around her. The piece is fast paced and ultimately very, very clever. Inspiration was drawn from the short animated film, Remarkable Little Seven-Ages-of-Man (1981). The comedy and fantastic duos brings a charm to the ordinary mundane tasks of life before the dictatorship. The woman’s husband soon appears, followed by a lustful and sensual young couple, a plumber hoisting a toilet and a boy with a Christmas tree. Wonderfully intertwined with one another, the dance certainly illuminates the whirlwind of life.
The stage clears and the audience watch – mesmerised – as the woman and her husband perform their memories of love and heartbreak. Without a pause, it is this piece in particular that gives the show a real grasp on human life. Miguel Altunaga’s ability to shift between a variety of emotion and movement truly helped to navigate the story. However, it was the smallest dancer of them all, Lucy Balfour, that blew me away with such elegance and strength. The range in race and ethnicity, height and gender connected us all to the story.
Closing the triple bill is the long awaited revival of Bruce’s Ghost Dances. Nicholas Mojsiejenko’s enchanting arrangement of South American folk music begins and a variety of small and large groups start to dance. The choreography incorporates more contemporary and Western styles of dance with traditional ballet and Latin-American inspired moves. It is a perfect blend of culture. A trio of masked and spooky men changes the colourful scene to one of darkness. There is a stillness in the air as we watch them collect the souls of the human victims. Their loss is a tragedy. The dances repeat their routines one more time after death symbolising how their joy and reason lives on.
The performance finishes as the victims walk – haunted – into a dimly lit cave. There is no sound but the whistle of the desert wind and the crashing of waves. The masked men remain, stood tall on a cliff-like piece, prowling the area for more lives to take. The lights go off and the audience applaud. We are never to forget this. This dance is their collective faith. It was beautiful.