Quark Dances

For Ensemble 
(2014) 12 minutes

Commissioned by Rambert for their 2014/15 season and premiered at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth on 24th September 2014. The work, which in performance formed part of a triptych entitled The Strange Charm of Mother Nature (with J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, and Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks) was choreographed by Rambert's Artistic Director, Mark Baldwin.

Programme note

Quark Dances for Large Ensemble (2014) Theorised and discovered in the 1960s, quarks – so-named after James Joyce's nonsense 'Three quarks for Muster Mark' (Finnegan's Wake, 1939) - are subatomic elementary particles representing the smallest units of matter. A key constituent within the make-up of hadrons (baryons, mesons) but otherwise impossible to observe directly or isolate singularly, they come in six 'flavours' (which determine property but cannot be 'tasted') - up, down, strange, charm, bottom, top – divided into three 'generations' and three arbitrary 'colour charges' (which cannot be 'seen') – blue, green, red. 'We are all agglomerations of quarks and electrons': 'all you need to make a human – and all you need to make a rock' (Brian Cox).

The five Quark Dances make up the final third of Mark Baldwin’s ballet on the origins of the cosmos, The Strange Charm of Mother Nature, inspired by a visit to the Large Hadron Collider (CERN, Geneva) and premiered by the Rambert Dance Company at Sadler's Wells, 18 November 2014. 'In brightly coloured catsuits, Rambert’s dancers represent different “flavours” of quark […] and dance more or less energetically according to the habits of that “flavour” – signalled by the changing position and [Scriabinesque] colour of the bright line projected on the backcloth' (Hanna Weibye, The Arts Desk). To a degree the Dances pay homage to the two (related) companion pieces comprising Baldwin's original triptych – Stravinsky's neoclassical Dumbarton Oaks Concerto and Bach's Third Brandenburg: most obviously in the G 'tonality' and division of violins, violas and cellos into three each (Bach), and the addition of flute, clarinet, bassoon and paired horns (Stravinsky). A baroque-resonant harpsichord takes on a concertante rôle in the toccata-like figurations of the second movement, and a more plectile conversazione one in the fourth (where the bassoon has a Dumbarton quote, balancing the Bach one of the first movement). The central dance evokes an inferno of tones and torn-apart temperaments vacillating in a chromosphere between biblical Chaos and current Big Bang, the lode-star of a horn call thrice sounded conjuring what one might will – Godhead, Creator, the Force. Lisztian metamorphosis and cyclic recollection link the outer movements.

© Ates Orga


"In Quark Dances, written for a ballet by Rambert’s Mark Baldwin, Frances-Hoad’s implicit trust in the expressive power of her melodic invention and harmonic thinking is paramount. That may seem to be an old-fashioned approach, but nothing in Frances-Hoad’s music ever sounds secondhand." Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Performance history (post-premiere)

10th February 2019 - Covent Garden Sinfonia conducted by Ben Palmer at The Purcell Room, London, UK 

25th - 28th March 2015 - Rambert Orchestra conducted by Paul Hoskins at Theatre Royal, Brighton, UK

11th - 13th March 2015 - Rambert Orchestra conducted by Paul Hoskins at Clywyd Theatre Cymru, Mold, Wales, UK

18th - 22nd November 2014 (7.30pm + matinees on 20th and 22nd) - Rambert Orchestra conducted by Paul Hoskins at Sadler's Wells, London, UK

6th & 7th November 2014 (7.30pm + matinee on 7th) - Theatre Royal, Norwich, UK

30th October - 1st November 2014 (7.30pm +matinees on 31st Oct and 1st Nov) - Rambert Orchestra conducted by Paul Hoskins at Theatre Royal, Bath, UK


Buy Stolen Rhythm, Cheryl's CD featuring Quark Dances

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