Rambert Contemporaries impress

Sadler’s Wells, London
November 7, 2016

David Mead

The ‘contemporaries’ of the evening’s title are three dancers who performed together at Rambert, who went on to found the innovative New Movement Collective, and who now are forging their own choreographic paths. Together they provided an evening of hugely watchable, fascinating, impressive dance, strong on imagery.

Malgorzata Dzierzon’s Flight is inspired by stories, images, conversations and personal experiences of migration and travel. The opening in particular is absolutely mesmerising. Against six flats that combine to create a huge wall, Edit Domoszlai performs a solo that’s full of yearning. The arrival of Miguel Altunaga simply ratchets everything up even more. Projections on the wall suggest leaves on a tree, rustling in the breeze; a breeze maybe that is blowing people from one place to another. The score, a combination of largely soulful violin music by Somei Satoh and Kate Whitley (if you can spot the joins you are better than I) simply emphasises the pain of separation.

Rambert Dance Company in Malgorzata Dzierzon's FlightPhoto Johan Persson
Rambert Dance Company in Malgorzata Dzierzon’s Flight
Photo Johan Persson

As the dance progresses, it seems everyone, every duet, has their own story to tell. At one point, four of the flats are assembled to create an ever-turning wheel, each quarter revealing a new picture, emphasising the fact that nothing stays the same in this always-changing world. The work loses focus a little in the following large ensemble section, during which the stage also looks crowded, but Flight is an excellent piece that I would happily see again.

It is good to see Alexander Whitley’s Frames again. It looked a classy work before, but with the opening carrying on of the metalwork now edited out, it is even better. Metal bars that clip together to form the frames of the title are delivered, danced with as simple objects, and assembled and reassembled into any number of forms, each time reconfiguring the stage space. Although the metalwork is integral to the work, Whitley never forgets that dance is about real bodies too. His patterning and use of the space is exemplary. Later, small lamps are added, creating new vistas of light and shadow, before, finally, everything is formed into one metallic sculpture that is hoisted above the stage, the whole looking like a glittering celestial star chart.

Rambert Dance Comoany in Frames by Alexander WhitleyPhoto Tristam Kenton
Rambert Dance Company in Frames by Alexander Whitley
Photo Tristam Kenton

Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s score, a mix of various noises that become increasingly shrill, is a bit harsh but makes for a good accompaniment. Tuur Van Balen and Revital Cohen’s costumes, simple white shirts and beige trousers all round, are elegant, easy to move in, easy on the eye, and show off the dancers’ gorgeous lines a treat.

Patricia Okenwa’s Hydrargyrum (an archaic name for mercury) is the more difficult of the three pieces. An exploration of relationships between the individual and the group, of connection and disconnection, to an original, rather screeching score by Serbian Aleksandra Vrebalov, the connection to the metal is tenuous to say the least.

Vanessa Kang in Patricia Okenwa's HydrargyrumPhoto Tristram Kenton
Vanessa Kang in Patricia Okenwa’s Hydrargyrum
Photo Tristram Kenton

It certainly has atmosphere, though, at least at the beginning. The mood is set immediately by the sight of six black-clad dancers in the shadows of some dangerous, dark and dystopian world. They stumble away from the group but are always drawn back, repulsed and attracted in equal measure. Jon Bausor’s huge and slowly revolving mirror hangs above the stage allows us to see what is happening from above and behind as well as from in front. Later, each dancer peels away their black outfits to reveal the person beneath, naked save for skin-coloured underwear. In what might be seen as an act of defiance, an attempt to break free or assert their individuality, some now perform alone in now brighter lighting while the others sit around and watch. The mood is hugely dissipated, though, and the effect lost.

Contemporaries has now finished at Sadler’s Wells, but Rambert Dance Company can be seen there in Mark Baldwin’s The Creation on November 10-12. Visit www.sadlerswells.com for details.

For more Rambert tour dates visit www.rambert.org.uk.