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Rambert Dance Company

Season of New Choreography

by David Mead

October 12, 2011 -- The Place, London, UK

David Mead

Ten out of ten for Rambert Dance Company continuing to encourage the budding and sometimes more experienced choreographers among its members in its annual season of new works. This year’s programme featured five very different pieces and some excellent dancing.

There aren’t too many times when the audience are told to make sure their mobile phones are turned on and that photography is “very much permitted” for a performance, but that’s just what happened at the start of Jonathan Goddard’s “07941 611 971”. The audience had been provided with DanceSpinners, and dancers’ mobile phone numbers were displayed above the stage. The idea was simple, spin the three wheels on the Spinner to decide the action, body part and direction, call the dancer and tell them what to do.

There were individual moments of delight but on the whole the result was a fairly predictable, incoherent mess. The stop-start nature of the calls, and the few seconds it took to spin the DanceSpinner meant the movement had little flow. In amongst this melange, however, there were moments of wicked delight. When you could hear the instructions it all started to have meaning. At least one member of the audience even decided to bend the rules a little. The young man seated directly in front of me decided he was going to “target” Robin Gladwin even before the piece started, and then proceeded to do so quite mischievously, ignoring his DanceSpinner and just giving the craziest instructions he could think of.

Some of the movement may not have been set beforehand (given the accuracy of some unison sections, other parts clearly were), but the structure most certainly was. Here, Goddard proved most adept at manipulating his cast, presenting relatively short, simple phrases in an endless variety of ways.

As much as everyone enjoyed Goddard’s solo piece, the most impressive work on show was his joint creation with Gemma Nixon, “Fitcher’s Bird”, also danced by the couple. Their symbolic interpretation of the Brothers Grimm story was a dark exploration of the sub-conscious, danced with incredible conviction and intensity. Goddard was forceful and aggressive as he dominated Nixon, who represented all three sisters in the tale, although she was sometimes powerful two, often clinging on to him or hanging round his neck as if pleading. My only reservation was the overuse of strobe lighting at the end. Although it created an impressive as Goddard too bird-form, it went on far too long and eventually I had to shield my eyes. Still, “Fitcher’s Bird” is class and a must for the main company rep.

“Mamihlapinatapai” is a word in the indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego that refers to a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other would do something that they both desire but are unwilling to do. It was packed with angst-wridden dance that gripped the senses. So, why oh why did Kirill Burlov feel the need to the dancers to speak, and in Spanish? The dance was powerful enough on its own and didn’t need it. Far from adding to matters, there were times when the text actually detracted from proceedings. The cast were great dancers, they are not great actors, and not great at projecting voice. Only occasionally was there enough emotion in their words for some understanding to be possible without translation. And as for the shrieking and wailing…

Malgorzata Dzierzon’s “Lines written a few miles below” brought us back to home and a scenario the audience were certainly familiar with: travel on London’s Underground. Much of the occasionally amusing action took place on and in front of a representation of part of a carriage. Commuters with their heads stuck in newspapers, people constantly dodging others, a lady with a huge suitcase that gets in the way, it was all there. Best of all though was the way Dzierzon reflected the false harmony that exists on the tube. No matter what private behaviour she magnified and brought to public attention, everyone ignored, or pretended to ignore, it. How true it was.

Otis Cameron-Carr’s “Oh” was inspired by relationships at home between her, her two sisters and their mother. The idea promised much, but the dancers failed to convince fully and the piece never really got into its stride.

All in all, this was an impressive programme, though. Artistic Director Mark Baldwin should be praised for making sure the season continues. Top marks too for the use of live music, and often new live music, in most of the pieces.

Rambert Dance Company is at Sadler’s Wells Theatre from 15-19 November. For details of this and other tour dates see


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