The Numbers Game (2005)

Duration 12’
For Piano and pre-recorded track
Choreographed by Sara Matthews
First performed as part of the 2005 Ballet Central National tour at the Jack Lyons Theatre, Royal Academy of Music, London.

The plan for The Numbers Game is a quite simple arithmetic sequence involving subtraction and addition. The piece, in twenty-three sections, starts with eleven dancers on stage which progressively reduces to one (Antonette Dayritt, now with the Rambert Dance Company), and then, after a solo that marks the central axis, the process is reversed and the dancers gradually return to their full complement.

The music is a powerful piano and percussion score, the electronic percussion being made up from all sorts of not particularly musical clonking sounds, industrial piping and the like. Some of the sounds found their way from the score for Adam Cooper’s Les Liaisons Dangereueses, which the composer was finishing at the time; it is even possible to hear a sampled guillotine at one point! The piano acts as both percussion instrument and, in the quiet centre of the piece, as intimate solo piano.

There are many metrical modulations, rhythmic puns that split twelves into all sorts of different fancy rhythms. Often these are structural markers, highlighting the point where the number of the dancers on stage changes. There is a machine quality to this music, entirely befitting its mathematical provenance, like some prehensile industrial computer.

The choreographer had particular trouble finding a title for this piece, which seems odd now since its title appears to be so apt and so uncomplicated. There was even an attempt to finalize it by Sara and the then artistic director of Ballet Central, Fergus Logan, 30,000 feet high up on their flight back from Japan. I think they probably succeeded.