Rambert may be Britain’s oldest dance company, but has never been afraid to move with the times – reflected in its continued commitment to commission exciting and innovative choreographers, composers and designers from around the world. Their 2014 Autumn repertoire demonstrates that they are also not afraid to hang on to classic dances from the past, with the most celebrated choreographers form the last 50 years represented alongside the new creations.
Three dances from this season’s programme were performed on Thursday evening. The first, Terra Incognita, by Indian choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh, had its premier less than ten days ago. Performed in three parts, it hinged around the central theme of exploring the unknown – from the challenges and fears of setting out across dangerous seas to unchartered lands, to the effects that confronting the new may have on very personal human relationships.
The bare stage was lit by spotlights hiding off to one side; add to this a subtle use of dry ice floating across a huge rectangular hole centre back, and a magnificent live orchestra somewhere beneath our feet, and the whole effect was dramatically mysterious and otherworldly. The enigmatic choreography was also danced to perfection by ten of Rambert’s current ensemble.
After the first interval, American choreographer Barak Marshall’s The Castaways produced an eclectic mix of music and dance styles with great style and humour. Twelve people, trapped in an unearthly space at the bottom of a large metal chute, were introduced by the emcee. Each character was then further elaborated through a series of dances, interspersed with dialogue. The dreamer, the jilted bride, the greedy beggar and the shy lovers, all showed themselves while sweeping through folk, pomp, pop and jazz from 1930’s New York, the Balkans, the Soviet Union and a lot more besides. Acting as well as dancing, and maintaining a remarkably high standard of both, the performers ensured this piece was an absolute delight.
After another interval, it was finally the one that we’d all been waiting for – a restaging of Christopher Bruce’s iconic Rooster, danced by Rambert for the first time in 13 years. It did not disappoint. With a backing track of eight Rolling Stones classics, the guys strutted, posed and preened while the girls teased, studiously ignored or looked on in mild amusement. This was a dauntingly demanding choreography that the dancers seemed to eat up and spit out. It was witty and hilarious – certain aspects reminiscent of the fabulous Matthew Bourne – and skilfully stunning.
This marvellous mix of styles and eras actually served to highlight just how far the gender stereotypes within dance have shifted and how much these choreographers have contributed to that progression. The males are now every bit as beautiful and graceful as the females are powerful and strong. While this increases the pressure on dance performers of both sexes, it is truly magnificent to witness the end result.
Runs 27th – 29th November