United Kingdom Various composers, New Choreography: Rambert, 99 Upper Ground, London, 15.12.2015. (JO’D)
Dancer: Luke Davidson
Choreographer: Pierre Tappon
Flautist: Tony Robb
Music: J S Bach: Partita in A Minor for Solo Flute BWV1013
Dancers: Brenda Lee Grech, Edit Domoszlai
Choreographer: Edit Domoszlai
Music: Lajos Sebestyen Szabo
Dancers: Luke Ahmet, Mark Kimmett
Choreographer: Carlos Pons Guerra
Music: Caetano Veloso: Cucurrucú Paloma, Fred Buscaglione: Guarda Che Luna, Los Panchos: Lo Dudo
Costumes: Ryan Dawson Laight
Dancers: Edit Domoszlai, Antonia Hewitt, Liam Francis, Joshua Barwick
Choreographer: Simone Damberg Würtz
Music: Max Richter: The Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra
Dancers: Adam Park, Kym Sojourna, Lucy Balfour
Choreography: Luke Ahmet
Music: Robert Millett, Yshani Perinpanayagam
Costume: Daniel Davidson
Where Things End and Ends Meet
Dancers: Liam Francis, Edit Domoszlai
Choreographer: Carolyn Bolton
Costume: Anne-Marie Bigby
Dancers: Estela Merlos, Stefano Rosato
Choreographer: Patricia Okenwa
Music: Geoff Holroyde, James Holroyde with sample of Chanson d’amour by Wayne Shanklin performed by Manhattan Transfer
Dancers: Isabel Slingerland, Tom Tindall, Anthony Middleton
Choreographer: Anthony Middleton
Composer: Jared Sorkin
In an article published in The Observer two months ago, dance critic Luke Jennings described the Rambert dance company as: ‘Comfortably funded, faultlessly professional, part of the cultural furniture. But hardly risk-taking or provocative.’ He was comparing it, unfavourably, to smaller companies such as Lost Dog, Sweetshop Revolution and the Spanish choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra’s DeNada Dance Theatre.
It was interesting, then, to find that for the first evening of new choreography to be presented from its home on the South Bank, Rambert invited the Leeds-based Pons Guerra to create a work on two of its dancers. In Ruffle, an unshaven Luke Ahmet in his underwear engages in choreographed grappling with the bearded and more solidly built Mark Kimmett. The grappling is cool, aggressive or passionate according to the music on the soundtrack. After reading about Pons Guerra’s work in the press, and about his ‘adoration for kitsch’ in the programme note, and knowing that Javier de Frutos is his ‘mentor’, I had expected something more outré. The music may be kitsch, but the piece lays a certain kind of male, sexual intimacy rather quietly bare. It focuses on detail like a camera in close up.
The programme ends with work by a second ‘outside’ choreographer that, like Ruffle, was co-commissioned by The Lowry arts centre in Manchester. Anthony Middleton, a gymnast before he trained as a dancer at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, began his career by dancing with BalletBoyz. Without End is performed by the choreographer himself and two members of ‘theMiddletonCorpus’, his company.
To watch it the audience is invited on to the studio floor, where small stones have been placed around a circle of light. The dancers, one woman and two men in grey polo necks and wide, black trousers, enter the circle and begin a series of revolving lifts and balances à trois in almost-but-not-quite slow motion and with hands constantly linked. The mechanics of the movement sometimes show, and the music palls, but I liked the way the dancers kept up their not quite slow motion as they left the circle and walked out of the studio.
‘Movement, perpetual movement, was my element.’ These words of Marie Rambert are carved like a motto on the wooden beam that rises from basement to ground floor of the Rambert building. With this company you will always get your pennyworth of movement for your penny. But of the six works choreographed by the Rambert dancers themselves, Luke Ahmet’s Touch was the most remarkable for the moment in which it combines movement with stasis. As Kym Sojourna and Lucy Balfour turn in circles on either side of him, Adam Park stands ‘waiting in the music’ of Robert Millett’s commissioned, piano and percussion score like Margot Fonteyn (or, more recently, Marianela Nuñez and Melissa Hamilton) in Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations (1946). Ahmet, who trained at the Royal Ballet School, appears to borrow from Ashton’s ballet in other ways, too: costume, use of épaulement, and the apparent sensitivity of the choreographer to the music and the dancers.