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Britain's oldest dance company has been celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary in exuberant style in various venues around London. There has been a retrospective exhibition at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, a series of films at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank, a visit to the Chiswick studios by the Queen, and a hugely successful two-week season in Islington at the Sadler's Wells Theatre. The latter included a birthday bash on the actual anniversary for individuals and veterans who have been connected with the company over the years.

It was on June 15, 1926, that the petite Polish dancer Marie Rambert presented a short ballet created by her young pupil, Frederick Ashton, at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, London, that marked the beginnings of what is today known as the Rambert Dance Company. Its indefatigable founder, so keen on promoting the works of young choreographers, would have approved of Artistic Director Christopher Bruce's choice for the celebrations--a program of premieres rather than a retrospective history of the company.

The first program showed Jeremy James's vigorous work Cheese and Jiri Kylian's Symphony of Psalms, both Rambert premieres. The second program had two world premieres: Richard Alston's Unrest, created the powerful score Fratres for solo violin and piano by Arvo Part, and detritus by Wayne McGregor, director of Random Dance Company and the hottest young choreographer in Britain today. And there was a revival by Siobhan Davies.

Part's raw and emotion-packed score set the scene for Alston's sleek and sharp choreography. In the opening moments, Samantha Smith, alone on the stage, showed her restlessness in a series of vigorous, fast, tai chi-shaped movements and abrupt, taut jumps until stopped firmly but briefly by the arrival of partner Martin Lindinger, followed by two more couples. Dressed in combinations of black and white, the six dancers replicated the abrasive scrapings of the violin bow and the heavy sonorous piano chords in cutting movements and fast but elegant swirls of dance patterns until the piece ended as it began.

A lone girl also was the starting focus for McGregor's debut piece for the company. Sinewy in red hot pants and top, Ana Lujan Sanchez sliced the air with her razor-sharp legs in a series of Forsythe-like pointe work moves. After this, her partner, Paul Liburd, abrasively raced her round in arabesque, twirled her in multiple turns, then shook her forcefully before handing her over to the next boy. Other dancers joined the melee, tossing partners in high acrobatic lifts, their legs wide in open splits, and switching between interrupted classical lines and volatile but fluid contemporary style. Everything was done at frenetic speed, yet there were many moments that stuck in memory: two girls with languid limbs that soared in wide arcs around each other like snakes; the sudden change from punctuated pointe stabbing to flat-heeled brisk walking; the dancers (thirteen in all) gyrating in waves of movement, then bouncing off unseen springboards. A suspended item, looking more like a huge gasoline pump than what the program called a "kinetic limb," hung and moved over the dancers ("fighting for ever-decaying space," the program ambiguously informed). Pushing the dancers to physical extremes, the finale built up in frantic, syncopated movement and ear-blasting crescendo of electronic sound by Scanner, which gradually subsided, until only Sanchez remained, lying on the floor executing seizure-like jerks as the light faded.

Siobhan Davies's revival of Sounding, created for the company in 1989, offered constant flowing sculptural movement to Giacinto Scelsi's eclectic "Okanagon" score for harp, double bass, and tam-tam. Two popular oldies were also included for good measure--Glen Tetley's Pierrot Lunaire in program two, and Bruce's ever-popular Rooster to songs by the Rolling Stones, which rounded off the first program.
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Next Article:Prince of the Royal Blood.

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