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Rambert Dance Company.

COLISEUM, LONDON JULY 9-13, 1996 REVIEWED BY JANN PARRY

Choreographer Christopher Bruce, who took charge of Rambert Dance Company two years ago, is celebrating its seventieth-anniversary year on a grand scale. For Rambert's first London season in four years (after extensive touring), Bruce presented two programs in the Coliseum, one of London's largest West End theaters.

Reduced ticket prices, thanks to sponsorship, and the capital's curiosity about the company's new identity under Bruce's leadership ensured that the five-day season would be a sellout success. Bruce has won his artistic wager that British audiences would welcome a contemporary style that blends ballet and modern dance trends--a Netherlands Dance Theater-type aesthetic that is unfamiliar in the U.K. Rambert's twenty-three dancers are now mostly ballet trained, putting the company back in touch with its original Ballet Rambert heritage.

Bruce paid tribute to Marie Rambert the company's founder, with a new piece, Quicksilver, which was her nickname as a mercurial child in Poland. At age ten, she had been photographed in her school uniform, proudly clutching a straw hat she refused to abandon. Bruce has picked up the emblematic hat and passed it among the dancers, commemorating both Rambert's stubbornness as a survivor and the swift passage of a dancer's career. Ghosts are summoned from musty costume trunks, and early ballets are recalled as performers assume costumes, hats, and roles, accompanied by Michael Nyman's film score for The Piano. Two dancers in red dresses represent Pambert, Patricia Hines as the actual woman and Joanne Fong as her unquenchable spirit. They encounter each other through mirror images--ideas reflected in Bruce's programming for the Coliseum season.

There were two celebratory pieces by Bruce himself to Nyman's music: Quicksilver and Meeting Point, which was one of the hits of the UNited We Dance Festival in San Francisco last year [see Reviews/National, September 1995, page 80]. And there were two mourning pieces: Antony Tudor's Dark Elegies, created for the original Ballet Rambert in 1937, and Robert Cohan's Stabat Mater (1975), a staple of the defunct London Contemporary Dance Theatre.

Several LCDT dancers have now joined Rambert, so Bruce was acknowledging their Graham-based lineage in the Cohan piece, just as he acknowledged his own debt to Tudor with Dark Elegies. Performing that ballet had inspired him as a young Rambert dancer in the 1960s, when he was the last choreographer to be nurtured by Rambert herself. Seeing Dark Elegies on a program beginning with his Quicksilver and ending with his Rooster, the influence of Tudor's masterpiece was clear in Bruce's similar use of expressive body language, ballet steps, and folk-dance motifs.

Dark Elegies was movingly danced, justifying the company's determination to perform the 1937 English version, rather than the later, American version approved by the Tudor estate (the subject of a now-resolved lawsuit brought by the estate in 1990). Mahler's music, Songs for the Death of Children, was well sung by Nathan Berg, and ably performed by the London Musici orchestra, which has collaborated with Rambert since 1994, commissioning music by young composers.

The orchestra gave its own matinee concert, "Music, Song and Dance," performing onstage for the London premiere of company member Didy Veldman's Kol Simcha ("Voice of Celebration") to music by British composer Adam Gorb. The score draws on traditional Jewish klezmer music, to which the dancers party, remembering the past and hoping for the future. Veldman's choreography, her first for the company, has much in common with Ohad Naharin's Axioma 7, in Rambert's first program. Both pieces are exuberantly energetic and both contain dark references to the Holocaust, though the tone of Axioma 7 was so uncertain that the London audience giggled through most of it. Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort, made for his own NM, was the opening piece of the season, showing off the dancers' prowess in balletic partnering skills, but not much else.
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Title Annotation:Coliseum, London, England
Author:Parry, Jann
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Oct 1, 1996
Words:641
Previous Article:Australian Ballet.
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