DANCE REVIEW: Rambert @Theatre Royal

March 22, 2018

Symbiosis. Miguel Altunaga, Hannah Rudd © Stephen Wright
Symbiosis. Miguel Altunaga, Hannah Rudd © Stephen Wright

It would be fitting if I could open this piece with a statistic on how many times the Rambert has performed at The Theatre Royal or indeed how often I have seen them there but alas all I can serve up is probably the well-known nugget that the Rambert is Britain’s oldest dance company and, as such we must be grateful that the post-war decision was made to discontinue touring with traditional popular pieces but rather return to the contemporary dance roots established by the company’s founder, Marie Rambert, in 1926. This has ensured that the Rambert, always visually satisfying, has also remained relevant.

Of course, there are the dances in the company’s constantly changing and expanding repertoire that stand out, for me personally Hurricane and Rooster still resonate in the memory and the usual structuring of their programme around three pieces often means that one can dominate. Which made last night’s production at the Theatre Royal the more gratifying.

Opening with Symbiosis (choreographer: Andonis Foniadakis, composer Ilan Eshkeri) we were immediately immersed in the impressive sheer physicality of the troupe. Costumes pared down in colour and line so as not to take in anyway from this representation of the tight but fluid fit of urban existence. The dancers moving so effortlessly that, on occasion, it was difficult to determine the boundary of one from another. Rather, like watching a slide of blood beneath a microscope, the cells constantly moving and gently dividing.

After a break, it made the opening of the second piece, To Be Me (choreographer: Julie Cunningham, music and text Kate Tempest), the more dramatic in its change of style and pace. Numbers reduced to four dancers only, in bold red and black, the focus of the audience was immediately harnessed and condensed. The smaller number also allowing the opportunity to linger on the sheer audacity and lyricism of the performers. Are bodies really able to bend, elliptically shift, step and stretch with this fluid precision? Yes, because we are seeing it happening before us. The accompanying text, delivered in a hip-hop rhythm worked wonderfully well poignantly underpinning that age old human struggle, the search for identity, as difficult for a time gone myth as for a young person in today’s world.

After another break, the night concluded with Goat (choreography: Ben Duke, Music arranged by Yshani Perinpanayagam) and here a departure for the Rambert, for me at least, as Miguel Altunaga, in the guise of a roving television reporter, interacted with the audience to humorously set the scene. It was a funny and gentle exchange. I have not known one of the dancers address the audience previously, and this cabaret feel was augmented by the use of some of Nina Simone’s better-known numbers, expertly and movingly delivered by Nia Lynn and backed by an on-stage jazz group. It made the fate of the Goat the more uncomfortable to witness as we were taken from this rather relaxed and familiar setting to something very bleak indeed. Such is the power of dance, unhindered by structured verbal narrative, on occasion it can deliver a much more profound blow to the senses. This was evidenced so vividly in another recent Rambert production, Ghost Dances.

So, a rather special evening which left me, for the first time ever when watching the Rambert, unable to select which of the three pieces was my personal favourite.  If you love the colour, story telling and sheer magnificence of an expert dance company and have not booked, you should as it finishes on Saturday. If dance leaves you unmoved, you should still try to see the Rambert, for you may very well be converted.

Review by Sara Fisher