In my opinion, Ghost Dances is a tribute to the victims of the political oppression in Chile, South America. It portrays the themes of love and compassion, through death which is shown in particularly by the ‘ghosts’. These themes are expressed throughout the piece and are unravelled slowly. Christopher Bruce choreographed and designed the set for Ghost Dances in 1981. This same choreography has been reproduced in 2016 and toured by Rambert company. Costumes for this piece were designed by Belinda Scarlett and the lighting was designed by Nick Chelton.
There are two groups of characters in the piece: the ‘ghosts’ which consists of three male dancers and the ‘dead’ which includes five female and three male dancers. I believe these two groups of characters can be distinctly recognised by the way in which they move.
I think that the ghosts set the piece and control the mood of it. The piece shows life of young people, from all walks of life rich, poor and even different racial groups, before being taken by the ghosts which gives an eerie and intimidating representation of death. For example, the ghosts move with much stronger dynamics making them seem powerful, -whilst the ‘dead’ dance with elegance making them appear to be fragile. This is assisted by the use of panpipes being used when the ‘ghosts’ dance.
The opening section of Ghost Dances is performed by the 3 ghosts. It has moments of stillness, elevation, falling, and turning. Which inspired Christopher Bruce when choreographing this piece as these movements are a key part of other choreographers’ styles. For example, Martha Grahams’ contraction and release technique. It begins with the sound of wind and silence which represents nothingness. It then develops into South American music when the dancers enter canon and unison movement phrases. The next sections of the piece are light hearted which is shown by ‘the dead’ characters and the folk music used. Within these sections there is some contact work and the use of traditional folk steps. Some motifs are repeated. An example of this, is the 3 ghosts do a plie motif, which is then later repeated by the other males. This may represent the males trying to take on the physicality of the ghosts. The final section (Ojo Azules) which is where the ghosts appear from upstage. They repeat the linked
arm motif seen previously in the piece. This presents the piece as cyclical, ending in the same way it began.
I have also watched Rambert perform a piece called Goat which is very contrasting to Ghost Dances. Goat was created as new dance theatre creation for Ben Duke, whereas Ghost Dances was created to express the world in a different way and to show controversial topics such as social, cultural or political issues which Christopher Bruce uses as stimuli for most of his pieces. The music for Ghost Dances is South American folk songs arranged by Nicolas Carr. Music is played live similar to the piece Goat. The aural setting of Goat also had a selection of songs performed by Nina Simone, and a live onstage band led by jazz singer Nia Lynn, but is also combined with the use of text by one individual. I believe Goat is contrasting to Ghost Dances because, although it looks at issues in the world around, it looks at it from a way of managing them and stopping them affecting you, whereas Ghost Dances looks at political issues and how they trap those who want to be free.