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Rambert Dance Company

'Irony of Fate', 'Songs of a Wayfarer', 'Tragedy of Fashion', 'Swamp'

Rewards for the intrepid

by Annie Wells

February 23 , 2005 -- Theatre Royal, Brighton, England

Those who braved the wintry conditions to catch the Rambert Dance Company on their annual visit to Brighton were duly rewarded. No stops barred - a soul-warming delivery of another eclectic selection of superlative Rambert originals with live music from London Musici reminded of the versatility and brilliance that has long made this company mighty.

Dancer Amy Hollingsworth and violinist Ruth Palmer set the standard with a transfixing performance of "Irony of Fate", the unusual duet Rambert’s Associate Choreographer, Rafael Bonachela made on them in 2004. Fulfilling intention and paradox, the work exploits and exhibits that which initially inspired the increasingly feted Bonachela - the two artist’s exceptional command of their respective instruments.

They looked similar up on stage in Robert Cary-William’s brown, leafy costumes, but were more implicitly bound by less tangible factors. Whether faced with Vytautas Barkauskas’ arching bows and taut pizzicatos or Bonachela’s cleaving stretches and perplexing dislocations, musician and dancer committed to her part with grit and determination. There was also a profound sense of complicity and reciprocity in their simultaneous movement through the music and choreography. By the dramatic drop of the curtain, they’d combined their extraordinary abilities to transport themselves, and by proxy those watching, to the outer limits of possibility.

As well as title and accompaniment, Mahler’s romantic song cycle, Lieder eines Fahrenden Gesellen, provided Kim Brandstrup with theme and tone for his weighty 2004 composition, "Songs of a Wayfarer". Embodying the jilted baritone’s (Adrian Powter) lovelorn lament with a typical measure of Rambert expressivity, the seven dancers imbued Brandstrup’s classically-styled illustration of his battle with rejection and sorrow with universal significance. While many would have empathised with the jilted Thomasin Gülgeç when as odd-man he was forced to move out of kilter with the group; others would have found sympathy with the pain and despair duets with ex-lover Ana Luján Sanchez evidently brought him. Struggling to rediscover their former flow he found her awkward and reluctant, only to witness her lift light and harmonious into the arms of another.

Though not all would have captured the full significance of Ian Spink, Antony McDonald and Juliette Blondelle’s 2005 reworking of Frederick Ashton’s sharp-edged comedy "Tragedy of Fashion"; the bright colours and wicked humour lifted the atmosphere like the arrival of a dessert trolley. In its re-telling of society couturier Monsieur Duchic’s heady rise and bloody fall, the adaptation pays fitting tribute to the 1926 ballet that played a large part in the launch of both Ashton and the company’s careers. For the sake of Ashton and Rambert Dance fans, and indeed for the posterity of general ballet history, it was wise that many in-jokes - allusions to influential figures (e.g. Rambert, Nijinska and Massine) and original step patterns (e.g. the ‘Fred Step’) - had been retained. However there was still much for a less informed spectator to enjoy in the contemporary version’s content, design and performance. Whether references to Ashton’s South American heritage and ambiguous sexuality were picked up or not, the charismatic execution of sequences like the tango and the revamping of Duchic’s progressively ridiculous costumes were all highly entertaining.

Like a double shot of caffeine, Rambert’s 2004 revival of Michael Clark’s 1986 "Swamp" took the long evening to a climatic end. Influenced by his training with the Royal Ballet and Rambert in the two techniques, he breaks systematic Cecchetti-style enchainements into random Cunningham fractals in a unique and inspired manner. As is usual with Clark, furious sound, (Bruce Gilbert’s Feeling Called Love, Do You Me?) and sharp light (by Charles Atlas) lifted the energy to a further extreme. At the point where it didn’t seem as if it could get any better, the dancers used the extra passion the work obviously stirs in them to dig a last bit harder and launch a last bit higher into its pliés and grands jetés. Wow!


Edited by Staff.

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