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Rambert Dance Company

'Sub', 'The Art of Touch', 'L'Apres midi d'un faun', 'What Wild Ecstasy'

by Charlotte Kasner

May 15, 2012-- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK

The quadruple bill opened with the UK premiere of Itzik Galili’s “Sub”, for seven men. Natasja Lansen decked them out in navy blue greatcoats, tied round the waist with wide leather belts, leaving bare torsos to reflect the light. Light levels were generally low, with strips of bright white. There was a heavy emphasis on horizontal movement, the company making a superbly timed ensemble in a fascinating work that seemed shorter than its actual thirty minutes. Michael Gordon’s “Weather One” is a terrific score and none the worse for the inability to be played live. It provided plenty of dynamics for Galili to bounce off and, although more cerebral than “wow” made for an interesting opening to the evening.

Siobhan Davies’ “The Art of Touch” is now seventeen years old and, whilst danced perfectly competently, came across as a bit of a filler. Whereas “Sub” reflected and projected the ideas in the score, this work seemed detached from the peculiarities of the harpsichord solo. It was too busy and only hinted at the tactile sensations that it is meant to explore. There were moments when dancers were low and still but then rattled off again in contact after contact leaving no time for pause or reflection.

Rambert has made a great effort to remain in touch with their “back catalogue” in spite of the many changes the company has seen over the decades. In a year when Diaghilev has been much to the fore, “L’Après midi d’un faun” stretches back to the company beginnings. Diaghilev had already ditched the customary large backcloth which of course could not be re-instated on the tiny Mercury Theatre stage. Curiously, this makes the setting more intimate even on the stage at the Wells, Sid Ellen’s lighting design enhancing the effect. Dane Hurst gave a muted performance; he seemed almost afraid of the blatant sensuality and sexuality, leaving the nymphs to fill in the gap with their wonderful, stylised movements.

The contrast between this “Faun” and Mark Baldwin’s “What Wild Ecstasy” could not then have been greater. There was no subtlety about the sexuality here, Michael Howells dressing the dancers in hot pinks and oranges and the consummation of the congress being highlighted by a stream of tumbling ping pong balls whilst the rest of the company watched. It seemed to owe more to “Rite of Spring”, as did Gavin Higgins' score. If nothing else, it underlined what a masterpiece “Faun” is; still subtly shocking a century after its premiere.

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