Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Hush; Scribblings; A Linha Curva

Rambert Dance Company
Sadler's Wells
(2009)

Hush production photo

Exhilarating and entertaining - Rambert once again prove they are one of the best contemporary dance companies on the scene. And what dancers: finely tuned, fleet of foot, clean lines not lost in athletic speed.

The mixed bill is a joy from start to finish. A blast of full-on dancing - a pick-me-up for the weary spirit.

The opening number was made for Houston Ballet in 2006. London finally gets to premiere Christopher Bruce's Hush (its UK premiere was in lucky Newcastle in March 2009). Inspired by a CD given to him as a leaving present from Rambert, where he'd been since 1963 as performer, choreographer, and associate director until 2002, Bruce reveals again the richness of his dance vocabulary, and his empathy with the performers.

The CD (Hush by Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma) was the perfect gift, moving Bruce to create a work that celebrates what it says on the sleeve - "life - from youth to old age". A little sentimental, the personal mixed with the universal, but as enchanting as any fairy story. Hush, a gentle lullaby, gives us half an hour to thaw and submit to its warm embrace.

Against a starry starry sky, a commedia dell'arte troupe, a symbolic family (their white-painted faces reminiscent of Bruce's performance in Glen Tetley's Pierrot Lunaire, and his own Ghost Dances) - father, mother and four children, two boys and two girls (set and costume design by Marian Bruce) - dance, rest, work, and play.

Children chase bumble bees; adolescents dance hoedowns, good-natured sibling rivalry flairs up and dies down; father rocks his daughter to sleep (Hush Little Baby); children sleep in those bums in the air positions babies favour; the mother does her chores whilst dreaming of being a swan.

Layers of meaning, shows of tenderness, the parents dancing as the children sleep, snatching a moment for themselves, there is a narrative of sorts. Life's a journey, it's a stage and we're all players. Wishful thinking, kindness and love in an idealised world.

The dancers are flawless - Kyril Burlov, Gemma Nixon, Gemma Wilkinson, Antonette Dayrit, Robin Gladwin, and above all the young Cuban Miguel Altunaga - and the choreography lyrical, witty, fluent, fluid, and satisfying.

Doug Varone's Scribblings quickly punctures Bruce's reverie. To John Adams's Chamber Symphony, played live by the London Musici, seventeen dancers scurry, run forwards, run backwards, race against time, collide in a frantic New York 24/7 life style - for twenty minutes. Some twister game or headless chickens - that's modern life for you.

Lightening streaks of urban fast lane life, apparently inspired by cockroaches scrambling to hide when the lights are turned on, tests the dancers stamina, velocity, gymnastic skills, co-ordination - the blocking is amazing. Frantically ordered cartoon strip chaos. The awkward duet (Gemma Nixon and Miguel Altunaga) in the middle breaks up the hyperactivity, but goes on too long. She manipulates, tries to dominate; he's compliant - that's it Thank goodness for the return of the others, fizzing and sparking like a firework display. Some West Side story

The final orgiastic twenty-minute percussive piece, A Linha Curva, created by Itzik Galili in 2005 in São Paulo, cranks up the temperature even more. This is its UK premiere - a wild elemental tribal rave, a pumped-up high on which to end the evening.

Israeli-born choreographer Galili is out of the Batsheva Dance Company stable, and it shows. Think Ohad Naharin, and now the young Hofesh Shechter - overwhelming volume of dancers, strong rhythm, precise synchronised moves celebrating the group and the community. And powerful lighting effects.

In sensual, ritualistic, escapist, physical purging twenty-eight dancers under chessboard grid disco lights, in skimpy glitter pants and see-through vests, dance in ever-changing formation to the unrelenting pounding beat of four drummers (music by Percossa). Hips, shoulders, hands, deep pliés, rubber limbs, virile bodies popping (audience's eyes popping) - ecstatic salute to the sun, this is carnal carnival.

Capoeira challenges, mocking male bravado, taunting females, and exhibitionist party pieces - a male dancer whips round in fast and furious fouettés whilst another alternately ducks and jumps the extended leg. Youthful exuberance, shouts, claps - dynamite. Dancers lying on their backs on skateboards hurtle across the stage, and the young audience gasp in wonder and delight.

A cohesive programme. I left in a dance drug induced trance.

Reviewer: Vera Liber