Rambert2: Grey Matter / E2 7SD / Ghost Dances / Killer Pig

Choreography by Benoit Swan Pouffer, Rafael Bonachela, Christopher Bruce, Sharon Eyal & Gai Behar
Rambert2 and Rambert
Sadler's Wells

Rambert2 dancers in Grey Matter Credit: Foteini Christofilopoulou
Aishawarya Raut and Conor Kerrigan in E2 7SD Credit: Foteini Christofilopoulou
Aishawarya Raut and Conor Kerrigan in E2 7SD Credit: Foteini Christofilopoulou
Rambert2 dancers in Killer Pig Credit: Foteini Christofilopoulou
Rambert2 dancers in Killer Pig Credit: Foteini Christofilopoulou
Rambert2 dancers in Killer Pig Credit: Foteini Christofilopoulou

Rambert is launching a new junior company, Rambert2, thirteen recent global graduates in their early twenties chosen from eight hundred applicants in open auditions. And are they put through their paces tonight in a triple bill that tests their stamina and mettle.

Plus they must compete with seasoned company regulars performing in one of Rambert’s most iconic pieces by Christopher Bruce, his Ghost Dances of 1981. Not only that, but we are told that this will be Rambert’s last performances of it in London. Not much riding on the evening then…

And naturally, third on the list of four, Ghost Dances is in a league of its own. What an eloquent sad pleasure, Bruce’s moving tribute to the disappeared and the survivors of Pinochet’s oppressive Chilean regime. There’s something of Lorca’s poetry in it, to my mind. Pablo Neruda, too.

Three dreadlocked, masked figures in loincloth and grey body paint, cold as the wind that blows from the underworld, take down one by one poor folk resigned to their fate and those in their happiest moment full of life and love.

Are the ragged group of eight already in purgatory—the bleak barren monochrome landscape suggest they could be—reliving and letting go of their past? The dancers are magnificent, real people in a tragic situation.

Dedicated to Nicholas Mojsiejenko, arranger of the South American music that drives this Day of the Dead tale, its folksy rhythmic music played live tonight.

Purgatorial rites seem to define the rest of the evening for me: a cohort of young people, dancing to a variety of techno music, being initiated in a triple ceremony of passage.

First up is guest artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer’s intense (all three pieces for Rambert2 are intense) Grey Matter. A troop of thirteen, dressed in Cottweiller’s blood red veined, pale, quirky designer costumes, plays the inside of a skull.

Apparently, “after our mid-twenties, the brain begins to decline.” Well, these young dancers are at their very peak then—they need to be to navigate, under Lee Curran’s brooding smoky light design, Pouffer’s complex choreography and Gaika’s layered music.

Heavy breathing on soundtrack and heavy beats, dancers sharp, together and apart (Faye Stoeser excellent in her rogue element solo), full of wild energy. Staccato jerks, electric moves; the music builds layer by layer; the grey matter is in overdrive.

Hofesh Shechter mixed with Boy Blue I think at first, but later I see Crystal Pite in their shoal moves, their flight patterns, their hyperactive amoebic cluster shifting around the stage. The bangs and wallops increase—is Grey Matter having a brain haemorrhage?

Rafael Bonachela’s 2004 E2 7SD, a London postcode, won the first ever Place Prize. And is another formidable piece, this time for a couple, Conor Kerrigan and Aishawarya Raut. To Oswald Macia’s (in collaboration with Santiago Posada) sound sculpture, they dance the living daylights out of each other in mortal combat.

Voices speaking of depression compete with industrial music soundtracks—but where is this warring couple? They could be in outer space. Maybe East London was outer space for a displaced Bonachela (now artistic director of Sydney Dance Company). Or in a closed trapped world of their own making, in their own minds.

Splayed Close Encounters of the Third Kind dazzling lighting—are they aliens, their angular moves so ferocious and so original? Contact work is outstanding—the slighter Raut taking the full weight of Kerrigan—and the speed is out of this world.

Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s Killer Pig is dance club ritual that goes on far too long. Originally created in 2009 for the Norwegian Contemporary Dance Company Carte Blanche, it is mesmeric, and Ori Lichtik’s repetitive techno music trance inducing in this spaced-out clubbing scene. Purgatory or what?

In skimpy, flesh-coloured underwear (design Sharon Eyal, Gai Behar and Odelia Arnold), they are a cross between praying mantises and exotic Alexander McQueen catwalk fashion models: as they stalk on tiptoes, knees slightly bent, I see his armadillo shoes on their bare feet. And I see Matisse’s dancers in eternal dance.

Wild arms undulating like the goddess Kali’s and sexy high kicks one minute, the next they are Neolithic beings in deep squats and lunges, the next cool studs with their shoulder rolls and rippling bodies. And yet they make me smile in their ceaseless wandering dance: an earnest thermodynamic perpetual motion dancing machine.

Popping and locking, Shechter (again) and Michael Clark all come to mind. Bodies throb, music throbs, chests pulsate, sweat pours off them, one girl screams, is this a dance of exorcism, of death, or to the death? Duracell bunnies wound up for eternity: they are still dancing, serious of face, when the curtain comes down.

A long evening, but a rewarding one: Rambert2 are on the map and they deserve every cheer from the partisan crowd. There are walkouts in the last piece, but that is no slight on them. What commitment, what careers ahead of them… oh to be twenty again, grey matter on peak form—look out for them on their extensive UK tour.

Reviewer: Vera Liber

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