|Dane Marie Rambert Source: Wikipedia|
Although it no longer includes "Ballet" in its title and it now describes itself as "our national company for contemporary dance" Rambert is in fact our oldest ballet company, Founded as the Ballet Club in 1926 it pre-dates the Vic-Wells Ballet, the precursor of the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet, by about 5 years. Sir Frederick Ashton, Sir Anton Dolin and Dame Alicia Markova were all with Dame Marie Rambert, the founder of the company (see "A History of Rambert").
Dame Marie had danced with Diaghilev. Rambert proudly displayed its heritage with Nijinsky's L'après-midi d'un faune which opened the quadruple bill at the Lowry in Salford last night. Faun was one of the first ballets I ever saw and it remains one of my favourites as you can from my "Hommage au Faune" 9 July 2013. I think it was that work and in particular Bakst's set that won me to ballet many years agi I saw Faun for the second time only last July when the Boston Ballet came to London (see "Boston Ballet: 'High as a flag on the Fourth of July!'" 7 July 2013). As I quipped in my twitter stream, ballets are a bit like buses. You wait an age for them then two come along at once. Rambert's production, unlike Boston's, did without Bakst's backdrop though the costumes were much the same. Possibly The faun was danced intricately by Dane Hurst and the Nymph exquisitely by Angela Towler. I had last seen Hurst at the Yorkshire Ballet Summer School gala at Sadler's Wells on 29 Sept 2013 where he had danced Insala to music by Ladysmith Black Mambazo (see "More Things I do for my Art - Autumn Gala of Dance and Song" 30 Sep 2013). Hurst impressed me then and he impressed me last night.
Chosen to accompany Faun was Mark Baldwin's "What Wild Ecstasy" with music commissioned from Gavin Higgins. As the curtain rise two giant wasps hanging from the ceiling prompted a murmur from an audience composed largely of schoolchildren. The kids were a little distracting at times - particularly in the opening bars of Faun as cackles and titters - but it was still good to see them there. The headgear of the dancers suggested flowers and insects and the ballet ended with a shower of yellow balls forming a circle on the ground which I took to represent pollen.
Next came Tim Rushton's Monolith, a very mysterious and haunting work set to the music of Pēteris Vasks. The programme states that "Monolith is inspired by pieces of monumental greatness and the people who formed them with their presence belief and mysteries." The set by Charlotte Østergaard and Rushton reminded me of images of Mars from Curisotiy with a range of hills and a volcano in the distance. Hues of reds, other worldly blues. Watch this clip and form your own view.
The last work was The Castaways by the young American choreographer Barak Marshall and yesterday was its world première. It is not every day that I get to a premiere much less review it. This was more play than dance but still very enjoyable. Twelve characters stuck in a cellar with no communication with the outside world except through a funnel through which were sent a bag of mail and a loaf of bread. The music was eclectic ranging from English and Yiddish songs to the national anthem of the former Soviet Union. All danced well but the following attracted my attention in particular: Kym Alexander, Kiril Biurlow and Vanessa Kang.
Rambert is about to move to splendid new premises on the South Bank and has invited the public to a series of events to celebrate their move in December. I shall certainly take them up on their invitation. I hope the move goes well for them.
9 Oct 2013 "The Castaways: Barak Marshall Creates For Rambert" The Ballet Bag