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.


Ballet British Columbia’s Triple Bill at Sadler’s Wells

Posted: March 12th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ballet British Columbia’s Triple Bill at Sadler’s Wells

Ballet British Columbia, Triple Bill, Sadler’s Wells, March 6

Ballet British Columbia

Scott Fowler and artists of Ballet British Columbia in Bill (photo: Chris Randle)

The UK tour of Ballet British Columbia that Dance Consortium has organized coincides with a change of government in Canada where the current liberal party under Justin Trudeau has filled up the cultural sector coffers the previous conservative party had spent years diminishing. Thus a medium-sized company from the West coast of Canada has been able to add to the country’s cultural profile in the UK and from the program Ballet BC offered at Sadler’s Wells it looks decidedly healthy. Artistic Director Emily Molnar’s opening choreography for this triple bill, 16+ a room, reminds us of the connection she has had with William Forsythe at Ballett Frankfurt although she has made the work very much in the image of her company. Only two of the current dancers remain from before Molnar became artistic director in 2009, so this is a group she has developed through exposing them to a rich gamut of commissioned works, choreographic methods and styles. It is a finely honed company that puts technical strength at the service of an engaging and generous choreographic language.

From the beginning of 16+ a room (2013) there is a sense of an intellectual approach to the physical language, as if the dancers are working out amongst themselves the problem Molnar has set them. At the same time the problem she has set — what would happen if you put 16 people in a room and started tipping it — creates its own dynamic of sliding, balancing, suspending and tilting that she wraps in a vocabulary of muscular classicism. Jordan Tuinman’s lighting provides a sense of both luminous intensity and architectural shift while Kate Burrows’ costumes give freedom to the contained force and articulate extension of the dancers. The energy that tips the room comes from the declamatory electronic score of Dirk Haubrich, providing a high-voltage current through its three sections to bind together the choreography, visual form and aural environment of 16+ a room into a single organic entity.

From Haubrich to Brahms is more of a musical step than it is to move from the style of Molnar to that of Crystal Pite. Each choreographer acknowledges a debt to Forsythe, and in Solo Echo (2012) Pite interpolates her vocabulary in the calm of Brahms’ chamber music (the Allegro non troppo from his Cello sonata in E minor and the Adagio affetusoso from his Cello sonata in F major). She quotes a poem by Mark Strand, Lines for Winter, in the program note, but Solo Echo is a poem in itself written on the bodies of the seven dancers and suggested in Jay Gower Taylor’s setting of falling snow. Between the exquisite opening solo of Brandon Alley and the ineffable sigh of his slumped body abandoned in the snow at the end is ‘a human journey from adolescence to adulthood’ that breathes with the emotional intricacy of the music. This is pre-Polaris Pite where the hive mentality has not yet coalesced; the sense of community is suggested rather through a constant tide of individual comings and goings, one motion inspiring another, not unlike the way the cello and piano weave their respective melodies yet maintain their respective voices. The unity of this intensely musical work is further enhanced by Pite and Joke Visser’s spare costumes of dark, pinstriped waistcoats and trousers while Tom Visser’s evocative lighting subtly indicates the shifting focus of our attention. If 16+ a room is extrovert and energetic, Solo Echo turns the dancers on themselves in a state of poignant reflection.

After the second intermission, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Bill (2010), originally created for Batsheva Dance Company with a score by Ori Lichtik, promises to further extend the scope of Ballet BC’s achievement. Unitards concentrate our attention on the structure of the body, its lines, shapes and gestures in four male solos that are respectively sensually outrageous, energetically comic, fluidly articulate, and stoically introspective. But the fifth, female solo begins to de-emphasise the individual to pave the way for the communal — a duality that pervades Israeli choreography. Expanding our focus to take in the entire stage at once, the nature of the visual game is searching the shifting unity of the 18 undulating, gesticulating dancers for subtle changes in rhythm and shape that Omer Sheizaf’s tonal lighting both emulates and encourages. Eyal and Behar extract sufficient differentiation within the group, but after the assertive individuality of the first two works Bill feels in its latter construction disconcertingly insubstantial. It is perhaps a case of the work’s formal integration into the company’s West coast ethos lacking the vital context of its social and cultural origins.

(Ian Abbott was the first to see this program at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2016)


Ballet BC, Birmingham Hippodrome

Posted: May 29th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ballet BC, Birmingham Hippodrome

Ballet BC, Birmingham Hippodrome, May 20

Artists of Ballet BC in Crystal Pite's Solo Echo (photo: Michael Slobodian)

Artists of Ballet BC in Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo (photo: Michael Slobodian)

Without the fanfare and hoopla that surrounded the recent English National Ballet all-female triple bill, She Said, it is testament to Ballet BC and International Dance Festival Birmingham that female choreographers are not a scarcity in either the former nor the latter. With this being the only UK date, a premiere and the debate around non-male choreographers, I don’t understand why “the national critics” weren’t present, choosing to review NDT2 and Northern Ballet instead.

As part of #TheBENCH, an event and wider choreographic support programme designed by 2Faced Dance Company to address the gender inequality in UK contemporary dance, Ballet BC’s Artistic Director Emily Molnar was invited to speak and offer an international perspective. With integrity, sense and articulate coherence in spades she responded and mentioned to the crowd that the company would be performing a programme of Crystal Pite, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar as well as one of her own works. After seeing Eyal and Behar’s most recent commission on Scottish Dance Theatre earlier in the year and the fervour surrounding Crystal Pite’s forthcoming work on a series of national companies including Scottish Ballet, it was impossible not to be curious.

One’s action ought to come out of an achieved stillness: not to be a mere rushing on.”- D.H. Lawrence

Molnar’s work that premiered in 2013, 16+ a room, opened the evening. Riddled with detail, pace and luxurious unfurlings of time alongside a repeated slow and knowing presence of a stage walker who held a sign that read ‘This Is A Beginning’ or ‘This Is Not An End’, Molnar accentuated the visibility of time and allowed us to see all the full stops on stage. Almost imperceptible tremors in the bodies floated to the surface in the not quite stillness emphasising the control and fizz of the 16 company dancers. Building entrances and exits into the choreography nothing was wasted whilst oscillating between large packs of movement and intimate duets the piece became structurally familiar but no less impressive. With a lighting design like spots on a domino and an electric rasping soundtrack suiting the crispness of the taut choreographic vocabulary and Molnar’s staccato sock-sliding lunges and pulses 16+A Room was a satisfying start to proceedings.

When you acknowledge the integrity of your solitude, and settle into its mystery, your relationships with others take on a new warmth, adventure and wonder.” – John O’Donohue

Pite’s Solo Echo  left an emotional residue that I’ve only felt after watching the 1953 film Tokyo Story by Yasujirô Ozu. Both are a study of human connections, regret, present echoes and anticipation whilst leaving time for it to settle inside you. With an upstage set design of a constant drop of either snow, petals or sawdust and a sweeping piano and string soundtrack, I read Japanese cherry blossom in the spring, a time for renewal and rituals which were also present in the choreography. A recurring motif of the frozen run, giving space and a softness that supports others, showcased alternative qualities in seven dancers and their ability to connect with the audience and their material. Solo Echo has an emotional sting that remained inside the body long after the curtain had dropped.

There is no such thing as a life of passion any more than a continuous earthquake, or an eternal fever.” – Lord Byron

Bill is my second live encounter with an Eyal and Behar choreography. Here they remould bodies through anatomical adventures. We see the same limbs and torsos used by Molnar and Pite, yet the angles are skewed, bodies inverted and are presented with a fevered ballet and jelly-legged solos. The stage is flooded with choreography for 22 minutes; patterns of repetitive walking and clockwise rocking provide mesmeric satisfaction mixed with the occasional choreographic burst that is reminiscent of a 90s WWF move by The Bushwhackers beating their arms to a wide invisible drum. They enable the dancers to command the stage with a cat-walking focus whilst conveying the rapturous joy of movement. There’s a depth of field in play, real care for the scenography and texture of the world and a constant eye on the end; Eyal and Behar are always building, always layering and always in control of our gaze. There are echoes of Hofesh Shechter in as much as Eyal and Behar, like Shechter, have the ability to be 1% different, which sets them aside choreographically and spawns a band of imitators. Their craft is a pleasure to revel in.

The construction of triple bills is a delicate game; wanting to build progressively but not drown and leave an audience with an emotional unevenness. Ballet BC’s triple bill was pitched well with an appetising opener, rich and complex main and a finale with all the trimmings and flourishes; here’s a company that has developed a repertoire of more than 35 works since 2009, from William Forsythe to Aszure Barton, and is actively collaborating with The National Ballet of Canada and Frankfurt Ballet to support artists, choreographers and audiences alike. Imagine if British companies would do the same.


Scottish Dance Theatre, Dreamers & Process Day

Posted: February 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Scottish Dance Theatre, Dreamers & Process Day

Scottish Dance Theatre, Dreamers & Process Day, Dundee Rep, February 12

Scottish Dance Theatre in Process Day (photo: Brian Hartley)

Scottish Dance Theatre in Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Process Day (photo: Brian Hartley)

“Dreams have only one owner at a time. That’s why dreamers are lonely.” – Erma Bombeck

Anton Lachky’s Dreamers woke up last February in a Scottish Dance Theatre double bill with Jo Strømgren’s Winter, Again. Upon first viewing I struggled to see the fit as the pair were too similar — both showcasing lightness, comedy and a hyper-real quality. So I’ve come back to Dreamers to see how it has settled into the bodies of the dancers, into the company and how it sits with a new bedfellow, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Process Day.

Dreamers
 defines itself as “making sense from nonsense and exploring links between reality and surrealism” and over the course of 35 minutes it delivers its intention well. A police line-up forms the opening image where all nine performers face front and Aya Steigman erupts from the line, fizzes with skittish urgency and delivers a hiphop-laced solo that is startling in its ferocity. This is the opening minute and I wonder whether my eyes can contain or maintain the pace. The invisible energy passed between each of the solo performers is dialled down the further away from the original source we go until everyone has had a chance or two to show us their best moves.

Nothing lingers for too long and at the same time we’re not asked as an audience to invest much either; we see two or three playful examples of what the world might look like if the choreographic power is given over to Audrey Rogero and Francesco Ferrari. The strongest visual memory from my first Dreamers was the face-melting elasticity of Rogero and 12 months on, the malleability, facial contortions and impossibly extended neck stand out again as she out-Doyles Mrs Doyle. Slapstick, physical buffoonery and bodily control are re-employed again and again with Rogero manipulating the remainder of the company at her whim; spinning, flicking, and boot-camping them. As she discovers her power and ability to transform she gifts us one of the most infectious cackles heard on stage.

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

When Ferrari emerges from the pack to take control, he’s barking orders ferociously in an unknown language and basking in the power of controlling the others — apart from when Amy Hollinshead marches out of the line like a rebellious tin soldier, frustrating Ferrari even more.

The lightness and humour shines alongside the musical choices of Bach, Verdi, Chopin and Haydn. Dreamers is a white, crisp, and frothy demonstration of personality, wild abandon and fine dancing.

“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.” – Jean Genet

As night follows day, dark will follow light and Process Day now follows Dreamers.
Are we in Dundee or have we been transported to a Weimar Republic cabaret, a dark world filled with luscious, crepuscular creatures, a place where gender is dissolved and eyes linger on the smallest of details? Eyal and Behar, alongside Ori Lichtik (musician), Rebecca Hytting (assistant and co-costume designer) and Alon Cohen (lighting) create an unsettling environment that either repulses or embraces the eyes that rest on the stage.

Clad in black from foot to ribs and a neutral scrim from the chest upwards, the dancers exist in a quarter light giving the impression of a floating set of torsos and amplified arms which frame and isolate each other like a vogue ball. From the nine performers, Josh Wild (apprentice dancer from London Contemporary Dance School) is a choreographic leech, creeping onto other performers, intruding and creating a series of unwanted duets before blending back into the dark. The dancers seem almost extra human and there’s a striking motif of Matthew Robinson’s controlled head-butting of Jori Kerreman’s stomach – it fits perfectly in this world and is one of the many lingering frescoes which sit amongst the larger-scale ensemble moments.

“So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T. S. Eliot

Cohen’s lighting design aligns well with the choreographic intention; despite the lights being so dim I am noticing the slightest of movements: twitches, ankle rotations and shoulder snaps were pulling my eyes all over the stage as a thin film of haze weighs heavily on the stage.

Classical strings, abrasive bass and relentless synths offer a sonic realm that promotes difficulty. Choreographic difficulty is also on show as not all the dancers are comfortable with this hard, sinewy performance style. Eyal and Behar are a brave choice from Artistic Director Fleur Darkin as they’re asking the dancers a completely different set of choreographic questions from those of Damien Jalet’s Yama, Darkin’s own Miann or Strømgren’s Winter, Again.

“Androgyny is not trying to manage the relationship between the opposites; it is simply flowing between them.” – June Singer

I am sucked into the world of Process Day by the scenographic control that Eyal, Behar and their collaborators have over me. It is satisfying to spend 40 minutes with them in their world of heavy and dark; but if the company does with Process Day what they did with Yama — extending it from an original half bill to a full-length work — now that would be a 30th birthday present worth unwrapping.

(Dreamers and Process Day are on Scottish Dance Theatre’s double bill tonight and tomorrow at Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh)