Shock of the new
IT'S a song-and-dance show but not as we know it. The Labyrinth of Love is no hoof'n'holler musical.
Rambert Dance Company's latest production has the ballet-tinged beauty familiar from one of the world's foremost contemporary companies, mixed with modern classic songs from a Grammy award-winning composer and design by one of Britain's leading visual artists.
It adds up to a visual, aural and kinetic treat for Theatre Royal Plymouth audiences next week, which will enjoy four pieces infused with words and music.
And for soprano Kirsty Hopkins it is a moving experience in both senses of the word.
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She sings and dances among the Rambert company members – a dream come true for a one-time ballet obsessive.
"I did a lot of dance as a kid at school and until the age of 14 I wanted to be a ballet dancer," she explains. "This really is a dream come true.
"I was doing two ballet classes a week plus tap and contemporary, but then the singing took over. I realised that singing came rather more easily than the dance. I wish I had kept it up so it was wonderful to work with the Rambert."
Kirsty's work as an opera and classical music concert singer has taken her all around the world but stepping on to a stage to be a part of a dance performance took her into new territory.
The connection came through Paul Hoskins, music director of Rambert. "I know Paul. He told me they were doing a work involving singers and invited me to audition and Sarah [Gabriel, fellow soprano] and I started work in the spring."
For a classical singer who specialises in centuries-old Baroque music, being a part of the creation of a contemporary dance piece was fascinating.
The dancers worked with a choreographer but the emphasis was on improvisation, interpretation and development.
The same applied to the music as the songs changed and evolved during rehearsals.
"Working with Baroque music you do not get that opportunity to be involved in the creative process in that way. It was quite amazing to see it and be a part.
"The dance changed completely and the of the seven songs, not a single one was the same at the end as when we started.
"The dancers make it look so easy. Then they give you a move and you try and realise how difficult it is."
For the singer, breath control took on an even greater significance than usual.
"It is really important to get the words across because there is no other narrative. They are based on poems and stories about love written by women over 2,000 years. It is quite complicated and not easy to sing.
"I do not do too much 'real' dancing – I think that's a good job! – but I move and there are lifts.
"I really have to concentrate very hard during a lift to maintain the breath control."
Michael Daugherty's songs, Marguerite Donlon's choreography and Mat Collishaw's design are complemented by a video screen as the experiences of falling in, through and out of love are played out.
"It is quite sexy and really beautiful and moving," says Kirsty.
"I would love to do something like this again. I have worked with dancers in classical concerts and I would love take that further.
"There is a movement towards mixing music and dance and visual art together. I think that is the future. It is refreshing as a performer."
The Labyrinth of Love is one of four dance pieces presented by Rambert at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from Wednesday to Friday next week.
The others are Paul Taylor's Roses; Dutiful Ducks, Richard Alston's solo piece with tongue-twisting text, and Merce Cunningham's Sounddance, the 1975 work inspired by the words of James Joyce.