Rambert Dance Company present Nina Simone-inspired performance

Rambert Dance Company

Rambert Dance Company / credit: Tristram Kenton

Award-winning choreographer Ben Duke tells us how Nina Simone, the woman and her music, inspired his new creation

In 1976, Nina Simone performed an eight-song set at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Her mental health far from robust, the gig was a poignant shambles with flashes of brilliance. It was while watching a clip from the show that choreographer Ben Duke began thinking about the pleasure and pain of performing.

It resulted in Goat, a new work set to some of Simone's best-loved songs (performed live by jazz singer Nia Lynn) and due to receive its world premiere in Edinburgh as part of Rambert's forthcoming triple-bill.

'I've loved Nina's music for a long time,' explains Duke. 'But this bit of footage was the real stimulus for the piece. She's singing 'Feelings' and is kind of unhinged, but it takes you through a range of emotions which is just extraordinary, and incredibly theatrical.'

Duke began talking to the Rambert dancers about the personal problems and world issues performers are expected to leave at the door of the rehearsal room, or side of the stage, and just get on with it.

'There's a pleasure in moving, but how does that fit alongside difficulties in relationships, family stuff or world events happening outside?' says Duke. 'Nina Simone is an example of someone who has sacrificed a lot, exchanging a private life for her incredible performance persona. And I'm not saying the Rambert dancers have done the same to that level, but it's the idea of going onstage in the middle of emotional turmoil and having to pretend that everything is OK.'

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Thu 26–Sat 28 Oct, 7.30pm, £15–£28.50.

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