Rambert Dance Company's Seven for a Secret

Composer Stephen McNeff reworks a Ravel score for the company's new production

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Rambert Dance Company's Seven for a Secret

Hugo Glendinning

He’s one of Britain’s finest opera composers, garnering awards and commissions at home and abroad. Yet even Stephen McNeff had a moment of trepidation when it came to re-arranging the work of one of his heroes. Choreographed by Rambert’s artistic director, Mark Baldwin, Seven for a secret, never to be told is set to Ravel’s early 20th century opera L’enfant et les sortilèges.

‘I tried to think what would Ravel have done, had he been asked to write a piece for Rambert,’ says McNeff. As well as editing the operatic score down, McNeff was also asked to create new sections to add to the composition. ‘Once I started working like that, it really freed me up,’ he says. ‘I didn’t feel like Ravel was looking over my shoulder all the time. And I like to think that if I bumped into him, he would say “nice job you did on L’enfant et les sortilèges as a dance piece”. I’m a great admirer of Ravel’s work, so the thing was to approach it with respect but not be overawed.’

Although Baldwin’s new work uses Ravel’s score, the narrative in the dance is completely different from the opera. Nor does it focus on the title’s origin – nursery rhyme ‘One for Sorrow’. Instead it is a wonderful celebration of childhood, with each of the Rambert dancers taking on a child-like role.

‘Childhood is a very evocative thing,’ says McNeff. ‘There’s the delight of children, and the regret some adults have that they’re not still there – would we do it all differently? There are lots of mixed feelings, and I think Mark has captured that extremely well.’

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thu 3–Sat 5 Nov.

Rambert Dance Company: Seven for a Secret Tour

Rambert Artistic Director Mark Baldwin's new work Seven for a secret, never to be told in a triple bill with Paul Taylor's 'Roses' and Henrietta Horn's 'Cardoon Club'.

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