Rambert to present Draw From Within by Wim Vandekeybus

David Mead

Rambert has announced that it will live stream the world premiere performances of Wim Vandekeybus’ Draw From Within on September 24-26.

The newly commissioned production is currently underway at Rambert’s Southbank studios and is being created while following the latest health guidelines.

Originally commissioned by Rambert’s artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer to create new work for the company’s 2020 touring season, Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus is taking full advantage of its state-of-the art studios on London’s Southbank, transforming the building into a fantastical world, and bringing the company back to life after lockdown.

Rambert rehearse Draw From Within by Wim VandekeybusPhoto courtesy Rambert
Rambert rehearse Draw From Within by Wim Vandekeybus
Photo courtesy Rambert

Capitalising on Vandekeybus’s extensive experience as a filmmaker, Draw From Within has been specifically created from the outset to be viewed digitally, allowing an international audience a uniquely immersive perspective. The idea is that those watching will feel like invisible participants with cameras positioned inside the dancers’ performance space to capture a virtual reality-style viewpoint.

The work will use all the company’s spaces from the loading bay to the studios via the corridors and even the roof. Audiences are promised an ‘assault on the senses’ as they embark on a ‘surreal and exhilarating odyssey’.

Vandekeybus says of his new production, “Draw From Within is surreal, unrealistic, nightmarish but there’s light in the darkness. It’s about threat but also about liberation, about death but also about birth. There’s an elemental, primal vitality to my work. I like to return to the ritualistic aspects of life, the ritualistic aspects of dance as a form of expression. I like to go under the skin and draw upon our innate human qualities: the human heart beat that unites us, the arc of a human life, the blood which courses through our veins.”

Benoit Swan says of the new commission, “I’ve been an admirer of Wim’s for a long time. With the combination of physicality and theatricality in his work along with his skills as a cinematographer, I knew he would challenge my dancers and bring something new out of the company.”

To give some idea of the health precautions taken, before the creation process for Draw From Within began on July 20, the entire Rambert company, artists, production and technical teams were tested for COVID. Having been given the all-clear, dancers were allocated to bubbles (some already share a household) and all guidelines have been followed in order to make sure the team is kept safe and well.

Keeping to an adapted schedule so as to avoid the rush hour, all staff and dancers enter the building via the loading bay and have their temperatures checked upon arrival. The dancers have been divided into six bubbles of four. Each bubble has its own area in the building to use and the dancers stay in their bubbles at all times.

The dancers rehearse and train in their bubbles with the cameras live streaming everything to each studio so the dancers and creative team can see one another. The bubbles also allow for short duet sequences in the piece to be performed safely.

Commenting on the creation of the work, Benoit Swan says, “There are many risks that we have taken on in the making of this piece and to see the tenacity of the dancers and the way the whole company has risen to this challenge has been incredibly moving. One of the things I want most for the company is for it to be relevant – to be responsive to the world of which we are a part. And to be able to do that now – we had to change the way we work completely. With limitations comes the opportunity to innovate and these kind of challenges can trigger creativity. We’re tried to use the medium of film to our advantage and give the audience an experience that they cannot get in a theatre, they’ll be closer to the dancers than ever. The challenges are big but I think more than ever the arts are essential, we need to keep entertaining, keep sharing our work and keep giving people a dream.”

Draw From Within will be broadcast to UK and European audiences via Rambert’s new cross-platform web application Rambert Home Studio at 8pm BST on 25 September 2020.

A further two live performances will be streamed for audiences in the Far East (on September 24 at 8pm South Korea, 7pm Taiwan and Hong Kong), and USA (September 26, 8pm New York). Tickets are on sale now for a fixed £10 per household. For details on how to book, visit: rambert.org.uk