Swamp, Stand and Stare, Constant Speed
Spring 2007 tour
Rambert Dance Company
Grand Theatre, Swansea
For ten years Swansea has eagerly anticipated the return of Britain's most innovative, exciting and oldest dance company, yet Rambert's new repertoire was undeniably worth waiting for.
A triple bill illustrated their well-deserved reputation for artistic excellence. The first of these pieces was Swamp - an Olivier Award-winner by Michael Clark. Clark combined classical ballet with modern and inventive choreography in a work reflecting relationships. Principally a duet production, it was as mesmerising as watching a lava lamp in the way the dancers pushed each other down, were brought back up again, pulled away from their partners and merged back together. Visually very stimulating, the dancers weaved in and out of each other in a kaleidoscope of movement. It was intriguing to see how the chain reaction of one movement progressed. The dancers were perfectly in tune with each other's bodies, performing with great control, precision, balance and a committed understanding of the choreographer's wishes, expressing his notion of action and reaction.
The metallic music had a mechanic beat, which worked well to contrast with the rhythmic flow of the dance. Clark's interpretation and company worked beautifully as an ensemble, creating an exhilarating piece.
Darshan Singh Bhuller's Lowry-inspired Stand and Stare was next to grace the stage. Though the artist's work at first glance seems simplistic and single-layered, Bhuller revealed depth and the multi-layers behind Lowry's work. Black costumes with a splash of colour peeking through showed the light sneaking into the darkness of Lowry's canvases. Lowry often painted over images as he changed his mind, altering landscapes to seascapes. The simple set conveyed this idea, with black and white painted panels swaying back and forth like the sails of a ship, while in front of the panels danced the colourful-costumed, seascape dancers in flowing waves of movement, and behind the panels, the black-costumed factory workers struggled to pull each other against the current.
Stand and Stare was inspirational, representing man rising to his aspirations, portrayed through the dancers supporting each other to reach skyward and achieve great heights. In these yoga-like positions of balance, the vertical and horizontal lines of Lowry's work were most obvious. Highly impressive was the strength and athletic ability of the female members of the company, who in this piece, had the men standing on their backs or lifted them with their arms. Like strong Northern women, they supported their men.
Music was percussive, atonal and stark, interspersed with silences. Interestingly, throughout the silence, the younger, more lively audience members were so totally immersed in the piece, that for once not a sweet wrapper was heard. Bhuller's choreography was accomplished and exquisite.
Constant Speed, by Mark Baldwin, was a wonderful finale to a diverse repertoire. A piece based on Einstein's theories at first seemed dubious, yet it proved a colourful, energetic and exciting performance that buzzed with life. In this fast-paced, athletic work, the dancers zoom across the stage, acting as molecules in a rainbow of costumes. The theme of light was brought to the stage with the utmost glamour in the form of a huge mirror ball. Who knew physics could be so much fun?! Beams of light fell on the dancers, catching them like sparkling specks of dust.
Partners or small groups created patterns, throwing and catching each other like jostled molecules. The idea of the universe expanding and changing was symbolised in these groups joining onto each other, flowing into another pattern. Colour, energy and rhythm increased as the piece moved on.
Unlike in the previous two performances, the music of Constant Speed was melodic and integral to the dance, helping the dancers to flow fluidly.
Full of exuberance, you felt the force of life itself. The sheer joy of the performance was obvious in the dancers' smiles. This was a thrilling end to a meticulously danced and breathtaking triple bill.
The chorographic talent of Rambert and the versatility of its dancers are truly amazing for both the impressive physicality and thought-provoking symbolism the company presents. A tour not to be missed.
Reviewer: Ella-Louise Gilbert