Playing with our fears: Rambert in Draw from Within by Wim Vandekeybus

Streamed in real time from Rambert’s London studios
September 26, 2020

Maggie Foyer

As someone who regularly courts danger, Wim Vandekeybus seems particularly well placed to relish the uncertainties and cliff hangers of COVID-land. He is also a multi-media artist who shifts seamlessly between live performance and film, a visible asset in Draw from Within, livestreamed from Rambert’s Waterloo studios.

The persuasive opening, so casual and almost improvised, is earmarked by Daniel Davidson’s reading of Ted Hughes’ enigmatic Conjuring in Heaven, a poem of meaningful nothing. The camera moves down the stairs and around the studios, capturing faces in the bursts of phosphorus as the flame from lighted matches is passed from mouth to mouth. Definitely no kissing; but wonderful patterns of smoke from extinguished tapers as the dancers move into action and write their stories in the smoky air.

Adél Bálint in Draw from WithinPhoto Camilla Greenwell
Adél Bálint in Draw from Within
Photo Camilla Greenwell

The Rambert dancers have bounced back from lockdown with renewed vitality, each an individual character within quicksilver group co-ordination. The action comes in staccato bursts and starts, music rising to a crescendo as dancers, notably a fiercely acrobatic Liam Francis, twist and fly alternating with impulsive stops, stirring an undercurrent of expectant violence.

A sudden cut to the peace and calm of a backstage corner finds Salomé Pressac, looking both wholesome and sexy in cropped white pants suit with an eye on Guillaume Quéau. Their relationship is brief, interrupted as the sets disappear and the studio is stripped down for more epic on-the-edge Vandekeybus choreography.

Damberg Würtz with Juan Gil and Alex Akapohi behindin Wim Vandekeybus' Draw from Within for RambertPhoto Camilla Greenwell
Damberg Würtz with Juan Gil and Alex Akapohi behind
in Wim Vandekeybus’ Draw from Within for Rambert
Photo Camilla Greenwell

Cables, expertly manoeuvred by the dancers, are drawn across a space bristling with danger, the dancers leaping over, rolling under or circumnavigate the obstacles with hair breadth precision. Pressac, braids flying competes with the best of them. The complex structure is expertly caught on camera to immerse us in the movement.

Vandekeybus criticises the follies of the media with penetrating satire. While a quietly spoken telephonist reassures callers on the chat lines, on the main stage the presenters, armed with microphones, waffle on enthusiastically.  The neatly choreographed ‘birth’ of a child prodigy provokes a media storm. As dancers party round the periphery, he’s the centre of attention: learning to cycle, then to drive and in no time at all, he has a gun. It’s Dad who gets the bullet and the media are in the thick of it, provoking and condemning violence in equal measure.

Conor Kerrigan, Adél Bálint and Alex Soulliere in Work from WithinPhoto Camilla Greenwell
Conor Kerrigan, Adél Bálint and Alex Soulliere
in Draw from Within
Photo Camilla Greenwell

Vandekeybus senses the mood of the times and plays with our fears. He offers us a collage of life and it’s not pleasant. Hospitals are no longer sanctuaries of care and healing. Masked medics with blood on their hands patrol empty corridors. Kym Sojourna stripped of her dress and coerced onto a stretcher, waits, in trepidation for the unknown. It is the child, seemingly immune to the disquieting forces, that finally returns the dress to Sojourna. The mood changes as vibes of coercive optimism provoke something approaching a religious revival and Davidson declares, ‘it’s all going to be alright’! We’ll see.