Wim Vandekeybus’s Draw from Within for Rambert has its moments of violence and fear

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Rambert’s Draw from Within: A live-streamed performance from Rambert’s London Southbank studios on 26.9.2020.  (JO’D)

Simone Damberg Würtz (front) & Juan Gil (back) (c) Camilla Greenwell

Dance from Within

Choreographer and Direction – Wim Wandekeybus

Dancers: Alex Akapohi, Miguel Altunaga, Adél Bálint, Simone Damberg Würtz, Daniel Davidson, Max Day, Edit Domoszlai, Liam Francis, Juan Gil, Brenda Lee Grech, Conor Kerrigan, Salomé Pressac, Guillaume Quéau, Aishwarya Raut, Hannah Rudd, Antonello Sangirardi, Kym Sojourna, Alex Soulliere and Jacob Wye.

As a piece by the Belgium-born choreographer, Wim Vandekeybus, Draw from Within has its moments of violence and fear. As a piece for the Rambert company it contains fluid and poetic movement by dancers with a ‘branded’ flexibility in their hips and at their waists. As a piece of live-streamed dance, created during the coronavirus pandemic, it makes a virtue of restrictions imposed by necessity.

It begins with a child sitting at a desk, writing or drawing. It then cuts to the roof of the company’s Southbank home. Two young men in tailored clothes dance a folk-influenced, jive-influenced duet against a backdrop of the London sky at real-time dusk. ‘So finally there was nothing,’ one of the men sings.

So far, so pleasant. What follows is more fearful. The camera descends the building’s staircase in a darkness through which a single flame (apparently held by the cameraperson) illuminates mystifying scenes of disquiet. They are filmic flashforwards to later sections of the piece. When the camera enters a one of the studios, Simone Damberg Würtz takes the flame and Rambert’s dancers go into their dance.

Costumed in subtle perfection by designer Isabelle Lhoas, they follow their physically distanced floor markings, twisting and twirling before a mobile camera as the tempo of a menacing guitar and drums increases. In a smaller group they switch to slow, bowed movement suggestive of a post-apocalyptic world. One couple begins a kind of ‘you-dancing?-you-asking?’ mating dance, as if at a disco or nightclub; it segues into quite a different dance. Four leaping men bring the Sharks and Jets of West Side Story to mind.

Then dancers begin to draw in black paint on sheets of brown paper that hangs from the walls, and scenes from the dark staircase return. ‘Threat is countered by liberation,’ says the introduction to the piece on the Rambert website, ‘death by birth … Wim wants to dare us to look under the skin and embrace these contrasts.’ Birth, death, blood, knives, the body as carcass: all of these now find their way into the dance, which mimics a live TV show with competing presenters (Daniel Davidson and Kym Sojourna).

Covid-19 itself is explicitly referred to when a now ‘pregnant’ Kym Sojourna, lying on a field hospital camp bed, is tended by women in visors and gloves and by a man in a hazmat suit, who deposits what looks like a bin-bag of infected clothing by her side.

A Wim Vandekeybus dance work can end with the complete destruction of its set by the dancers. That was the case with bootylooting by his own company, Ultima Vez, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2013. Perhaps because this is a piece for Rambert, or because it was created in a pandemic in 2020 that has wreaked a far greater destruction of its own, Draw from Within closes with Kym Sojourna, in a lovely white dress, being ironically serenaded by Daniel Davidson among a group of dancers. And another dancer writes, on one of the sheets of brown paper, the enigmatic phrase ‘Prolonged applause in heaven’.

John O’Dwyer

For more about Rambert click here.

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