Rambert2 Triple Bill and Rambert’s Ghost Dances at Sadler’s Wells

Posted: November 11th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rambert2 Triple Bill and Rambert’s Ghost Dances at Sadler’s Wells

Rambert2  Mixed Bill and Rambert’s Ghost Dances at Sadler’s Wells, November 6

Rambert2

Joshua Barwick and Salomé Pressac in publicity shot for Rambert2 (photo: Nicholas Guttridge and Benoit Swan Pouffer)

Rambert 2 is, according to the publicity surrounding its launch, the newly-formed junior company of Rambert, made up of 13 dancers (nine of whom were trained in the UK) from an audition of 800 international applicants. The name relates it to companies like NDT2 or Ailey II but its reality is different. The dancers’ contract is part of an MA in Professional Dance Performance accredited by Kent University which makes Rambert2 more like a conservatory company on the model of Laban’s Transitions or London Contemporary Dance School’s EDGE except that it has the advantage of being able to use the name of a prestigious company in its advertising and, with support from the Linbury Trust, is offering the students a tax-free bursary to cover tuition fees and the equivalent of a London Living Wage. The competitive stakes in the city’s postgraduate dance ecology have been raised. The MA lasts 15 months, and the Rambert School is already posting for auditions in early 2019 for the next cohort with a new lineup of choreographers; the ‘newly-formed junior company of Rambert’ is set to become an annual event.

The project was devised and planned by Rambert’s executive director, Helen Shute, its then artistic director Mark Baldwin and Rambert School principal, Amanda Britton. Three choreographers were chosen for the first Rambert2 cohort: Rafael Bonachela, Sharon Eyal and Benoit Swan Pouffer, a former dancer with Alvin Ailey and for ten years the artistic director of New York’s Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. With Baldwin’s departure around the time of the first auditions, Shute invited Pouffer to oversee them and subsequently appointed him as guest artistic director of the main company while ‘a thorough and rigorous process’ is in place to find Baldwin’s successor *. Since Bonachela and Eyal each provided a seminal work from their existing repertoire, Pouffer found himself in the fortunate position of being able to handpick 13 dancers from 800 on whom to create a new work.

Like the publicity surrounding it, Rambert2’s program at Sadler’s Wells (who commissioned this inaugural season) blurs the distinction between a repertoire and a conservatory model; the former is based on the impact of the program while the latter aims to give all the dancers a chance to experience each choreographer’s work. Bonachela’s E2 7SD is a duet and Eyal’s Killer Pig is set on seven dancers; Pouffer obliges by making Grey Matter the only work that uses all 13 dancers, but it is the impact of the program that prevails on a durational, visual and aural level.

The program is a display and celebration of youthful energy that devours all in its thirst for experience. Grey Matter may be a lament for memory loss but the synapses around the brain malfunction — personified by Faye Stoeser — are still fully charged and sensual, and go about their cerebral tasks costumed by Cottweiller to the throbbing Ghettofuturism of GAIKA. E2 7SD is a love-hate duet — wrapped in Oswaldo Macia and Santiago Posada’s sound sculpture and lovingly re-staged by Antonia Grove — between a towering Conor Kerrigan and a feisty Aishwarya Raut that has the rawness and angst of teen spirit but ends up oddly sentimental, while Killer Pig, at a relentless 45 minutes, is a visceral paean to club culture and sensuality engulfed in a body-beating aural collage by Ori Lichtik. I saw it some years ago in a nightclub in Tel-Aviv and its sinuous, androgynous energy completely silenced the capacity clientele.

Killer Pig might have worked better if it had closed the evening after E2 7SD but instead it was preceded by Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances performed by the main company. A protest against the brutal Pinochet régime in Chile doesn’t fit between a Hackney Road postcode and a Tel Aviv nightclub, either in spirit or in choreography. For some undisclosed reason the classic work is being withdrawn from Rambert’s repertoire two years after reviving it and the company has chosen this inaugural season of Rambert2 to cast it off. There’s perhaps a coded message in the composite photograph by Pouffer and Nicholas Guttridge on the company poster and program cover. In the shadowed background stands Rambert’s Joshua Barwick as one of the dead in Ghost Dances. He has lost his skeletal mask that lies in the foreground by the statuesque pose of Rambert2’s Salomé Pressac wearing, we are told, Simon Albo. Her front leg has been photographically distorted and her thigh retouched to generate a muscular anomaly but her outstretched arm and upturned hand are aligned to give the mischievous impression of pushing Barwick defiantly off the stage.

*Pouffer was appointed Artistic Director of Rambert on December 12, 2018.


LCDS Undergraduate Show 2016

Posted: February 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on LCDS Undergraduate Show 2016

London Contemporary Dance School, Undergraduate Show, The Place, February 3

LCDS undergraduates in Ori Flomin's Things Happen Just (photo: Alicia Clarke)

LCDS undergraduates in Ori Flomin’s Things Happen Just (photo: Alicia Clarke)

Undergraduate shows shift the way dance is usually presented. Choreographers come to set work on students and the school in effect becomes a temporary, and quite unique company. Tonight there are three commissioned works for ensembles but the opening pieces are choreographic miniatures by the students on the BA1 Composition course and the BA2 Music & Choreography course respectively.

As soon as Edward Hookham and Conor Kerrigan begin their It’s Nice, Isn’t It? you feel in safe hands. And Hookham’s hands are large, an extension of long arms that he weaves in articulated patterns around his tall frame. It’s Nice, Isn’t It? is a structured improvisation in which Kerrigan wrily comments on Hookham’s improvisation then Hookham on Kerrigan’s. The two are quite different; Hookham has a languid lyricism while Kerrigan is more compact and forceful (‘aggressive’, suggests Hookham). Kerrigan’s desire to interfere with his friend’s improvisation ‘just to see what will happen’ seems in character. He bumps into him, destabilizes him; Hookham stays low, undeterred, and continues his soliloquy in a smaller space. Both performers come across as relaxed and in tune with each other, performing their material with natural ease. A pleasure to watch.

Not to be outdone by the men, Evelyn Hart and Charlotte McLean munch into cake? what cake? with relish for both the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s cello suite No. 1 in G and for their gestural play. They seem to find in the curves of their short unctuous phrases the curves in the music, and even the playful nibbling routine seems embodied in the score. Designed as ‘an exercise in being in conversation with the music’, it is only three minutes long but its irreverent humour and pluck reverberate long afterwards.

In another exercise, Let in Fall, Daniel de Luca and Bethany Edwards choose to juxtapose their movement to the music of Arvo Pärt’s Für Alina. The juxtaposition nevertheless retains a relationship with the score, a kind of love-hate relationship that juxtaposes less than it aggravates. It’s as if neither de Luca nor Edwards quite know what to do with the music, which sails on notwithstanding.

For Me, You & Us, choreographer Fin Walker reworks the third duet from her 5 2 10 (5 duets, 2 solos and 10 instruments) which she created with composer Ben Park when their company was resident at ROH2. Explaining how 2 became 14, Walker writes, ‘I have taken the concept, ideas, structure and intention and adapted it for this piece.’ The original seven dances were based on the seven chakras, and the third, located in the solar plexus, is the seat of taking action (or not). As Walker writes, ‘At times we are unable to step forward into life, other times we follow an unconscious “doing, doing, doing”.’ It is this contrast on which the choreography focuses. Initially dancers in a line alternate between gestures of still self-reflection and wave-form action but then the fire takes over and the line explodes into wild movement in which someone screams an angry Fuck You! and from which quartets and quintets detach in complex patterns marked with vocal instructions and contrasted stillness. It is not long before the fire burns out and the asymmetric groups reform in the calmness of the orderly opening line. But even if this final poise, reflected in Park’s music, is intended to convey a spiritual resolution, it is the reverberating influence of patterns and energy in Me, You & Us that overwhelm it.

Tom Roden’s Anya speaks and dances for itself. The story of Anya’s life is told from the historical perspective of an older woman through the eyes of her youth in the person of Eleonora Ramsby Herrera. Roden clearly admires Anya’s strength and social conscience (she could be someone he knew well) and invests the work with an appropriate warmth and energy that the entire cast soaks up, in particular Elena Zubeldia Perez who plays Anya’s little sister with a delightful sense of pathos and comic timing. Roden is the dance side of New Art Club, so there is both a choreographic line and a smile that run through the work. Each biographical story is magnified and coloured with songs, text and dance enhanced by Nicole Bowden’s warm-coloured costumes. Roden reveals a company that is unique, varied in size and shape but working together as a regular (as opposed to idealised) social group. Unfortunately such companies don’t exist, but perhaps they should.

The final work is a challenge in its abstraction, its rhythms and its complexity. Even the title, Things Happen Just, is enigmatic, like the earlier Let in Fall. Choreographer Ori Flomin cites the American artist Frank Stella as his inspiration, in particular his ‘layering colours, texture and shapes in a chaotic yet organized way.’ This is exactly how Things Happen Just comes across. If the costumes by Frances Morris provide the colour on which Kyle Olson layers the musical texture, Flomin does the rest. Choreographic meaning is abstracted and form is eviscerated in favour of high voltage dancing and dynamic juxtapositions. Storms evolve out of stillness and gravity is overcome with a thrust that has been lacking all evening. Emma Farnell-Watson stands out but the entire cast manages to create a sense of beauty at the heart of Flomin’s chaos.