Saturday, 1 October 2016

Red Hot Rambert

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Rambert, Flight, Frames and A Linha Curva, The Lowry, 29 Sept 2016

One might not guess it from its repertoire or extraordinarily talented and versatile young dancers but Rambert is our oldest and in many ways our most illustrious dance company. Founded in 1926 the company has done at least as much to develop an audience for dance in the UK as any other company. The short film Unlocking The Passion expresses eloquently the qualities that make Rambert so special. This year marks the company's 90th anniversary.

I first came across the company in 1955 when my parents first moved to London. The company, which was then known as Ballet Rambert, used to perform in the open air theatre on Streatham Common. I have been a fan ever since. Now that I have returned to the North I get to see them only when they visit the Lowry which happens about once a year.

I saw them on Thursday, the 29 Sept 2016.  Perhaps because it is their 90th anniversary this year's offering seemed special.  The company danced Flight by Malgorzata Dzierzon, Frames by Alexander Whitley and Itzik Galili's A Linha Curva. These were three very different but very impressive works in their various ways.

According to Rambert's website the theme of Flight is migration:
"A moving set and multimedia projections create an ever-shifting backdrop as the dancers dramatise the mix of hope and fear that make up the migrant experience of leaving one home to search for another."
Coincidentally, the flight of migrant workers was central to Akram Khan's Giselle  which English National Ballet danced at the Palace a mile or so away (see Akram Khan's Giselle 28 Sept 2016). Set to the music of Somei Satoh and Kate Whitley the work opened with a single female dancer with her back to the audience performing an elegiac solo. She was soon joined by a single male and then a couple who emerged behind what appeared to be a wall. More couples joined them. The walls glistened and changed colour and design. Those on stage left rotated each pushed by a single dancer which seemed to reveal a room revealing brief scenes from the life of a couple, family or other group. There is an interesting interview with the choreographer in The Guardian entitled Free movement: how Rambert’s dance crosses borders 9 Sept 2016. Apparently, Dzierzon finished Flight on the day of the Brexit vote and she reminds us that Dame Marie Rambert was herself a migrant from Poland.

My favourite work of the evening was Frames. It began with the dancers dropping metal rods on the floor. with a mighty crash.  "Another reminder of Akram Khan's Giselle!" I inwardly groaned. But unlike the sticks carried by the wilis those rods were not for zapping people but for making things. All kinds of things from fences to travelling barres. Indeed the plie, tendu and port de bras was my favourite use for those rods which were eventually joined with string and hauled up to form a gigantic light fitting.  The piece was set to a score by Daniel Bjarnason. The ingenious designs were by Revital Cohen and Tuur Van Balen and the very clever lighting by Lee Curran. There is a short interview with Whitley on Dance Tabs (see Interview – Alexander Whitley, Choreographer and Director 2 March 2015).

Rambert's party piece on Thursday was A Linha Curva. The stage consisted of percussionists in a box above the dancers. The work began with chants by male dancers in gigantic, reflective metallic collars which was answered by calls and screeches from the women. The stage exploded into a carnival of movement fuelled by the relentless beat of the musicians.  The effect was quite hypnotic and the performers' vitality and vivacity were infectious. The website promised:
"the cumulative effect has audiences on their feet and cheering (once they’ve got their breath back)"
and that did indeed happen in Salford. Indeed, I was one of those who stood for the company at the end.

Altogether this was a great show which presents Rambert at its best.  We in the North forget that there is a lot more to Rambert than a contemporary dance touring company (see Join in with Rambert on the company's website). It runs workshops, masterclasses and other events throughout the country as well as regular classes in London for adult dancers including Mercury Movers for dancers of my vintage who meet on Saturdays. If ever I have to move back to London full time for work I should be tempted to join them.

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