The reputation of the Rambert Dance Company as one of the most technically brilliant and visually outstanding British dance troupes justified itself entirely with their opening performance at Norwich Theatre Royal on Thursday 17 October.
A four-part selection of breath-taking choreography coupled with exquisite musical accompaniments left the audience struck with admiration. Initially a traditional ballet school, Rambert have evolved into contemporary dance specialists who boast some of the most intensely talented dancers available. This imaginative blend of classical and modern techniques makes Rambert appealing not only to dance and theatre enthusiasts but to anyone in search of intelligent, gripping and unique entertainment.
Seated in the Theatre Royal’s glamorous 1300 seat art-deco theatre, one could not escape the atmosphere created by this impressive show.
The production began with a silent stage, a slow spotlight beginning to illuminate a lone male figure, dressed only in a rippling blue fabric tied about the waist. The figure begins to move as if in a trance around the stage, contorting his body through mesmeric positions fully worthy of an opening sequence. Gradually, six more male dancers join the stage, dressed in similar attire, and begin a whirlwind of drastic movement with meticulous synchronicity to the sound of wild, ‘rhythmically complex’ musical accompaniment. Full attention must be drawn to the relationship between Itzik Galili’s spectacular choreography and Michael Gordon’s composition Weather One that made this opening piece, SUB, so special. Galili said of this piece, ‘you cannot express it in words; the feeling is almost ungraspable and yet it exists’. Sitting in that theatre, one certainly felt lost for words.
Next, the audience was treated to a short, invigorating solo dance by Dane Hurst entitled Dutiful Ducks. Choreographed by Richard Alston and set to an entirely spoken-word soundtrack composed by Charles Amirkhanian, Hurst seemed to translate the sounds of the words into the movement of his body. Though brief, this creative piece exemplified the power of perfect synergy between image and sound.
For the last two pieces, a host of immensely talented female dancers were introduced to a cast that had been all male until that point. The first, Sounddance, was fast and furious and alive with bright lights and golden curtain and costumes. Merce Cunningham choreographed this piece to reflect James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, the idea of ‘a tiny racing life seen under a microscope’. By entering and leaving through a gap in a golden curtain, the dancers come from the void and return to the void, dancing quick, exact and wild movements in the space between. The Rambert Company relayed this idea with a great deal of clarity and respect to the original concept, and the skill and fitness levels of their dancers cannot be praised enough.
The final piece of the night, The Castaways, saw twelve characters thrown down a giant garbage chute into a dusted basement with no idea why. Set to a fantastic soundtrack of wild 1930s-style orchestral tunes chosen by the choreographer, Barak Marshall, these distinct personalities, including a man who prefers to live in his dreams than real life and a bickering, passionate Latin-American couple, attempt to find the reason behind their capture and abandonment. Narrated throughout by one of the on-stage characters, this piece saw dialogue hit the stage for the first time in the night, exacted with precision and well-acted by all. The pinnacle came when the illusion of a stage performance was broken as the audience was lit up and the characters turned to look at us in amazement, a point at which they truly saw themselves in full light. The style and impressiveness of this final performance rounded off a wonderful display of creative diversity and multi-modal entertainment. If anyone reading this has never seen Rambert perform live, I fully recommend it as their next evening out. They truly provide a unique treat for all.