There is a definite buzz of anticipation at Sadler’s Wells as Rambert returns to the stage with a triple bill.

The programme features a wonderful photograph of Didy Veldman performing in the 1990s. The Dutch choreographer has 'returned home' (she used to dance with Rambert) to create The 3 Dancers, a work inspired by Picasso’s painting of the same name (1925), drawing on cubist ideas and the deep tragedy and conflict which lie behind the visual imagery.

<i>The 3 Dancers</i> by Didy Veldman with Brenda Lee Grech, Daniel Davidson and Miguel Altunaga © Tristram Kenton
The 3 Dancers by Didy Veldman with Brenda Lee Grech, Daniel Davidson and Miguel Altunaga
© Tristram Kenton

On a stark, monochrome stage two trios, one in white and one in black, stand like the figures in the painting, joined hand to hand as if they cannot let go, moving from one to another angular pose in distortions of perspective and line. The groups mingle and break into more complex arrangements, with solos, duets and groups pulling themselves into strange shapes through sudden, repeated changes,  unexpectedly echoing each other across the set. Three times, huge shards of broken mirror descend into the space, but without affecting the movement. Elena Cats-Chernin’s newly commissioned music uses accordion, saxophone and low strings to bring to mind Paris in the 1920s while communicating changes in mood and energy through inventive use of timbre. Although clever and interesting, and an excellent technical interpretation from the dancers, I felt the piece did not fully communicate the “violence, love and death” that is so strong in the panting. It felt abstract, perhaps deliberately, and so impersonal. There were also moments which were obviously deeply significant, but whichI felt to 'get', despite extensive programme notes. I felt as if I was looking in from outside.  

The next piece pulled me in immediately and engaged me throughout. This was the London première of Kim Brandstrup’s Transfigured Night, built around Schoenberg’s late Romantic score, Verklärte Nacht, which sees a lover admitting a dark secret to her partner.

Three duets show different responses to a devastating revelation, often against a greek chorus of dancers to reflect and amplify the events and the characters' feelings. We see the couple tearing themselves apart, then finding a dream-like unity through forgiveness and acceptance and, perhaps more realistically, being confused, damaged and torn, but muddling through somehow and staying together. The Rambert Orchestra under Paul Hoskins did great things with the Schoenberg, articulating its layers analytically thus allowing its changes in mood to support the dramatic development. Fabiola Piccioli’s thoughtful lighting worked very well with Chloe Lamford’s design. A single monumental pillar was variously lit to dominate the stage or to become a comforting point of stability, whose shadow could 'disappear' a broken-hearted lover or anchor the delicacy of the dream. The duets were wonderfully performed with a powerful contrast between the earthy realism of Simone Damberg Würst and Miguel Altunaga tearing each other apart at the beginning and muddling through at the end and the soaring and athletic romance and idealism of Hannah Rudd and Dane Hurst in between. The 'chorus' worked very well too, helping to create an engaging narrative, without having to spell things out too precisely. I would happily see this again.

Mark Kimmet and Hannah Rudd in <i>Rooster</i> © Tristram Kenton
Mark Kimmet and Hannah Rudd in Rooster
© Tristram Kenton
Rooster (Christopher Bruce), set to music by the Rolling Stones, is a glorious creation: instantly accessible and entertaining whilst having more than enough choreographic sophistication and skill to engage a roomful of dance scholars.

Miguel Altunaga’s opening rooster strut is just as it should be: arrogant, stylish and faintly ridiculous – the perfect foil for Mick Jagger’s cocky lyrics. It sets the scene perfectly for the other seven songs, and the courtship dances that go with each. The men are sharply dressed and swivel-hipped, with precise ritualised gestures, especially when dealing with the women, who express effortless superiority through ironic humour and a careless 'doing their own thing' attitude. There are several great throw-aways (As when two of these macho men are horrified to find themselves dancing together, but shrug and get on with it, or when a woman winds one up to such a frenzy of stylish posturing that his friends have to carry him away, still repeating his moves). What looks like a simple celebration of the swinging sixties and the consummate rock’n’roll of the Rolling Stones has in fact many layers and nuances. It is also a demanding piece for the dancers, asking them to combine freedom and uncontrolled energy with laser-like precision. The energy or precision slipped occasionally, and very slightly, but overall the dancers were excellent.  

I left the theatre smiling after a rich and engaging performance that fully demonstrates Rambert’s many strengths.