Memories of Ghost Dances

Originally choreographed for Rambert Dance Company in 1981, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances has seen enduring success as one of the companies most popular pieces and a lasting political relevance that still resonates with audiences today. As Rambert prepare to restage Bruce’s iconic dance piece at Sadler’s Wells for its final London performances, we speak to one of the original Ghost Dancers, Nelson Fernandez.

What do you remember about the creation process?

Most of all, I remember the music, which at the start had been very unfamiliar in spite of the fact I was born in Latin America. The music, coming from Chile, is extraordinary, haunting, otherworldly, and at the same time, very much rooted in the traditions of people of the continent. I will never forget hearing the live music from the talented members of the Mercury Ensemble (as it was then called). I found it hard to believe they were able to produce such music and such sounds and to make that music their own. I also remember watching some of my fellow dance artists in rehearsals – people like the unforgettable Frances Carty – and being moved to tears. Chris felt deeply about the subject matter and this showed through in his choreography.

Describe your first memory of the mask, paint and getting ready for that first performance.

I was in the second cast that performed a day or two afterwards. It was an extraordinary experience as it was evident from the start that this was not just another run-of-the-mill ballet but something that had an impact on both performers and audiences.

During the creation period did you have any idea that Ghost Dances would go on to be have the effect on audiences that it has? What do you think has made it so popular over the years?

It became clear that the work had a strong impact from the start. The movement, the mystery of the masks for the ghosts, the eerie and moving music, the extraordinary individual performances all made their contribution.

Lastly, if we had a plague of injuries and you got a last minute call, do you think you could go on in your original role?

You must be joking!

Rambert return to Sadler’s Wells with Ghost Dances as part of mixed programme, Two, on 6 – 10 November. Tickets are available now priced from £12. To book, call the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.