Rambert Dance Company Revives Past Triumphs

United KingdomUnited Kingdom  Various Composers,  Rambert – Sadler’s Wells Programme: Rambert Dance Company, Sadler’s Wells, London 20.5.2014 (JO’D)

Rooster Photo(c)_Hugo_Glendinning
Rooster Photo(c) Hugo Glendinning

Four Elements
Dancers: Adam Blyde, Simone Damberg Würtz, Antonette Dayrit, Dane Hurst, Estela Merlos, Mbulelo Ndabeni, Hannah Rudd, Stephen Wright
Musicians: Catherine Elliott (double bass), Ian Scott (Bass Clarinet), Kyle Horch (alto saxophone), Kevin Elliott (horn), Niall Keatley (flugel horn), Ruth Molins (trombone), Robert Millett (percussion I), Christopher Blundell (percussion II), Yshani Perinpanayagam (piano), Kate Whitley (electric keyboard)
Conductor: Paul Hoskins
Choreography: Lucinda Childs
Music: Gavin Bryars
Design: Jennifer Bartlett
Lighting design: Howell Binkley

Dancers: Miguel Altunaga, Hannah Rudd, Mbulelo Ndabeni, Carolyn Bolton, Adam Blyde, Patricia Okenwa, Dane Hurst, Anonette Dayrit, Stephen Wright, Estela Merlos
Choreography: Christopher Bruce
Music: Songs recorded by The Rolling Stones
Costume design: Marian Bruce
Lighting design: Tina MacHugh

Dutiful Ducks
Dancer: Dane Hurst
Choreography: Richard Alston
Music: Charles Amirkhanian Dutiful Ducks (1977)
Lighting design: Sid Ellen
Costume design: Richard Alston

Dancers: Miguel Alunaga, Lucy Balfour, Dance Hurst, Vanessa Kang, Mark Kimmett, Estela Merlos, Mbulelo Ndabeni, Patricia Okenwa, Hannah Rudd, Jon Savage
Musician Electronics:  Robert Millett
Choreography: Merce Cunningham
Music: David Tudor Untitled 1975/1994
Staged by: Jeannie Steele
Design and Lighting design:  Mark Lancaster
Music consultant: Jesse Stiles


For the first London season from its new home on the Southbank, Rambert chose a programme of four works originally premiered in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. It was as if, among so much newness, the company felt the need to look back to its past. ‘Movement, perpetual movement was my element,’ said Marie Rambert, who founded Ballet Rambert in 1926. Last night each Rambert dancer, while retaining an individuality, seemed to move with the company’s strong identity. Collectively they also made movement seem both exciting and important.

In plaid or patterned unitards (some with playing card motifs), their downward pointing arms curving slightly outwards from their upright bodies, the dancers moved first to the sound of percussion and woodwind in the ‘Water’ section of Lucinda Childs’  Four Elements (1990). They moved like waves in a physics laboratory ‘wave tank’, first in horizontal, then in diagonal lines. In ‘Earth’, four women travel about the stage performing small jumps and tracing soft arabesques. ‘Air’ was four men, constantly running on from the wings, half-skipping, half-jumping, then tracing a soft arabesque en l’air before disappearing into the wings on the other side. ‘Fire’ bathed the duets of all eight dancers in a reddish light that revealed the skeleton design on the bodysuit one of them was wearing. She is the dancer left on stage at the end to be showered, like Alice in Wonderland, by a pack of cards. It could be argued that Four Elements is vieux jeu (and each section rather outstays its welcome), but the dancers were exhilarating as they performed it.

According to the progamme notes, choreographer Christopher Bruce tells dancers that Rooster (1991) ‘has to be as accurate as a Balanchine ballet’. He tells them this because the music of The Rolling Stones to which it is set, and the choreography itself, might give an audience the idea the dancers are just having fun. Although it starts out lightheartedly enough with Miguel Altunaga’s male parody chicken strut, things do get more serious later on. (The ‘Ruby Tuesday’ section had the man in the row in front of me reaching out a hand to the woman he was with, as if to stop her from running away there and then.) Antonette Dayrit, in this section, and the other women dancers elsewhere, provide strong counterpoint to the antics of the men. A lot of the men in the audience roared their approval of, and identification with, this representation of young manhood, especially that by Altunaga whose dance this came to be.

Dutiful Ducks (1982) demonstrates Richard Alston’s musicality as a choreographer, even when the ‘music’ is the sound of the human voice. In this very brief and very moving solo, Dane Hurst (in the coolest, calmest pale-green and white) showed by his balances, his entrechats and his ballon why he was chosen as Best Male Dancer at this year’s Critics Circle National Dance Awards. Merce Cunningham’s Sounddance (1975) should have had more effect than it did. The problem may have been the sound (by David Tudor) that accompanies the dance. The combination of bird-song, motorbike engines, drills, and a radio not properly tuned in became a barrier to the movement that was taking place on every part of the stage. It was movement that became especially interesting when four of the ten dancers formed a group to one side, their arms waving like tendrils. The yellow-gold curtains, hanging in heavy swags at the back, were also a claustrophobic distraction from what the dancers (dressed in tops of an identical shade, and leggings of pale blue) were so conscientiously doing.


John O’Dwyer

Leave a Comment