There are times in Mark Baldwin's cleverly exuberant new piece – Seven for a secret, never to be told – when one almost expects Martin Jarvis's voice to start reading a Just William story.
Not just because the boisterous little lads in their 1950s apparel, and the madcap girls in chintzy frocks, often evoke characters out of post-war Richmal Crompton, but because of the mood conjured up by Baldwin’s witty, harum-scarum choreography.
As the dancers run happy riot, playing giddy games under the green shade of Michael Howells’s willow-fronded dell, the energy unleashed in tusslings, chasings, pillow fights and make-believe adventures has all the high-spirited spontaneity of carefree early years.
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The insights into childhood behaviour supplied by scientist Nicky Clayton have encouraged Baldwin to let his own ideas skip and whirl in dynamic response to Stephen McNeff’s exquisite orchestral adaptation of Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges. But if Seven for a secret ... packs a mighty, magical feel-good factor for audiences, it’s not a doddle to dance. Eryck Brahmania and Dane Hurst excel in solos of fleet-footed complexity, but everyone’s kept on their toes. The same is true, albeit with a different set of challenges, in Paul Taylor’s Roses. Lyrical elegance is sparked through with frisky cartwheels but nothing derails the romance of this iconic American’s creamy-smooth choreography for six couples. And again, the Rambert dancers shine, as they do in the opening work, Cardoon Club. A bit of shimmy-shallying flummery that has strutted all its stuff after 10 minutes, but like the zombie-esque night-trippers it portrays, simply refuses to lie down and die. Great live music, though.