It gets a little tiresome talking about Bradford without referencing the fact that the city is beleaguered; but you can’t ignore the facts.
Yes the city has had its issues, but people outside the city are starting to see that there are positives happening in Bradford. City Park, the new shopping centre – it’s all happening. Those of us who know the city know that the rewards being reaped right now are the effort of hard work over the past decade: hard work by the city’s cultural leaders (some argue they stepped into the vacuum left by some political leaders who shirked their responsibility).
Those leaders include the man in charge of the Bradford Alhambra, Adam Renton.
While the theatre has a duty to bring in audiences – which is why it stages big, brash musicals – Renton also feels a responsibility to the city’s soul, which is why the Alhambra has had a decade-long commitment to bringing dance shows to Bradford.
It was counter-intuitive to bring dance to the city, but Renton always had a Field of Dreams attitude to the notion.
It’s why next week sees Rambert dance company return to the city and to the Alhambra.
The world-famous dance company’s artistic director Mark Baldwin says: “Rambert has been coming to Bradford on and off for many years. When I was a dancer in the Company in the 1980s we performed at the Alhambra. Even though so much has changed, it’s a thrill to continue to bring spectacular dance back to Bradford. The city is putting a great deal of energy and thought into its centre in which the Alhambra grandly sits. It’s a buzz to see the Company back on this big stage.”
It really does sometimes take a stranger from out of town to show you what you really have.
“As a company, we’re committed to touring our work throughout the country. We’re particularly passionate about bringing world-class contemporary dance to audiences and areas such as Bradford, who may not have as many opportunities to see this type of performance or see contemporary dance on this scale.”
In Yorkshire, of course, we are very well catered for. Leeds is recognised as the (unofficial) dance capital of the North – with Phoenix, Northern Ballet and Northern School of Contemporary Dance, we do have an embarrassment of riches. Bradford needs to ensure it continues to be seen as a vital stop off for touring companies.
Baldwin says: “Our last visit to Bradford was in 2011 and we’re delighted to be returning to this wonderful theatre. It’s fantastic to see top companies such as Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Northern Ballet and international ballet companies, such as Moscow Ballet, all presenting works here in Bradford.
“The programme itself is particularly suited for Bradford, in fact it’s tailor made, with Dark Arteries a new work part-inspired by the 30th anniversary of the end of the miners’ strike. Performed in Bradford with the brilliant Carlton Main Frickley Colliery Band joining our dancers on stage, Dark Arteries is a collaboration with composer Gavin Higgins, a champion of brass band music who comes from a long lineage of brass musicians and coal miners.
“In Gavin’s score you can hear clearly the nostalgic brass band sounds of yesteryear off-set by explosions of sound and haunting and melancholic melodies. This is brass band music as you have never heard before – it’s moving and exciting stuff, perfect for the Alhambra.
“The programme comes to a close with the incomparable Rooster by Christopher Bruce. One of our best-loved works, Rooster is inspired by some of the Rolling Stones’ greatest hits; it’s sassy and full of swagger – a real homage to the Swinging Sixties. I feel this is the best programme we have ever brought to Bradford – it’s bigger, bolder and brassier than ever before.”
The only reason audiences might not be convinced yet is the word itself: contemporary dance. It is the sort of thing that can put people off before they’ve even got through the theatre doors.
Baldwin ensures there’s nothing to be scared of.
“Contemporary dance is all about the experience, and at Rambert we aim to take the audience on a journey with each of our vibrant and diverse programme of works.
“We work with lots of different composers, choreographers and artists from across the world to create our pieces and combine beautiful music played live by our orchestra with dramatic lighting, sets designed by top artists and gorgeous dancing from our twenty two world class dancers, to create a spectacle on a grand scale,” he says.
“You don’t have to have seen a dance production before to be moved by what you see on stage when all of these different elements come together.”
• Rambert is at The Alhambra, Bradford, October 21-23. Tickets 01274 432000 or www.bradford-theatres.co.uk