New Choreography Showcased by Rambert Dance Company

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Rambert: New Choreography, Rambert Dance Company, The Place, London, 16.11.2014 (J.O’D)

Unspoken Dialect
Dancers: Adam Byde, Carolyn Bolton
Choreography: Luke Ahmet
Music: Benjamin Tassie
Costume design: Luke Ahmet
Lighting design: Lucy Hansom

No.1 Convergence
Dancers: Kym Alexander, Liam Francis, Antonia Hewitt, Adam Park, Hannah Rudd, Stephen Wright
Choreography: Patricia Okenwa
Music: Geoff Holroyde and James Holroyde Convergence
Costume design: Hyemi Shin
Lighting design: Lucy Hansom

Dancers: Daniel Davidson, Edit Domoszlai
Choreography: Simone Damburg Würtz
Music: Simone Damburg Würtz
Costume design: Simone Damburg Würtz
Lighting design: Lucy Hansom

Dancers: Liam Francis, Antonia Hewitt, Stephen Wright
Choreography: Pierre Tapon
Music: Henry Bennett
Costume support: Caroline Hagley
Lighting design: Lucy Hansom

Dancer: Dane Hurst
Choreography: Dane Hurst
Music: Paul Gladstone Reid MBA Symphony of Dust and Air
Lighting design: Lucy Hansom

In a programme whose title had changed from last year’s Evening of New Choreography to the more urgent New Choreography, five dancers from Rambert presented their work as choreographers. Not in the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells, as they did last year, but at The Place. For the sake of uniformity of style, perhaps, the three ‘mentors’ of 2013 had been reduced to one: the dramaturge Peggy Olislaegers. There were no on-stage musicians; the focus was on the movement. Three of the pieces measured up for their duration to this sense of playing for higher stakes. The other two (both more ambitious in their way) measured up to it at times.

Dane Hurst’s O’dabo, which ended the evening on a high note, seemed to have been influenced by Meryl Tankard’s The Oracle (2013): its staging and its presentation of the male body in crisis. The dancer is first seen from behind and at a distance. His bowed, almost hulking back, whitened with powder, is the body made strange. As a dancer, the now thirty-year-old Dane Hurst would seem naturally to be a creature of the air. O’dabo pits this against earthbound trembling and shudders, robotic gestures, and running on the spot. Over the course of the piece, the powder is partly shaken off to reveal the dancer’s darker skin underneath. It was a dance that the audience surged forward to applaud.

Luke Ahmet’s Unspoken Dialect, like Hurst’s piece, makes use of the downstage right-upstage left diagonal. Two dancers (Carolyn Bolton and Adam Blyde), side by side but facing in opposite directions, trace this line as one. They stop, along the way, to perform a stylised skip or hop that is like thought, tripping up over itself. On moving apart, the dancers show little awareness of each other, and have no physical contact. They could be distinct aspects of the same body or mind. Their solipsistic movement is characterised by rolls and spins, and a recurrent circling of a hand around the head. Dualism is also there in the different backgrounds of the dancers themselves: Martha Graham (Bolton) and the Royal Ballet School (Blyde). The piece ends on a return to the diagonal, with the dancers now walking away from each other.

The two white-faced dancers wearing shroud-like costumes in Simone Damberg Würtz’s Rift (Edit Domoszlai and Daniel Davidson) do have physical contact. As the title of the piece suggests, it is of a troubled nature. Expressionist, or Wigmanesque perhaps, the movement has something of the shock of the new about it, as a piece by Rambert. It is performed to silence or to words in a language that might be Danish. What you often hear is the percussive breathing that results from the dancers’ sharp and jerky encounters. When they come to rest it is to hook a head on the other’s shoulder, and to leave the rest of their body hanging from it. The theme of power relations runs through the piece. Both dancers are seen clutching, from floor level, at their partner’s ankle. It is difficult to say who has the power in that situation: the person being dragged, or the person who finds their forward motion impeded.

Patricia Okenawa’s No. 1 Convergence is ambitious in that it uses six dancers. They wear very pale shades of the colours Rambert dancers wore to perform Merce Cunningham’s Sounddance at Sadler’s Wells in May. This suggests that the piece itself is an intentionally pale shade of Cunningham. In solos, in pairs, as a group, the dancers keep moving. But there is (perhaps intentionally) no climax. At the end, the dancers don’t stop; they scatter. Pierre Tapon’s Related is the only one of the five pieces to use props: a wooden seat and an arch. Its three dancers (two men, one woman) are related in what seems to be a ménage à trios. In a piece that is a sometimes too literal expression of emotion through movement, Antonia Hewitt emerges as a much stronger and more forceful dancer after she has passed through the arch.

John O’Dwyer

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