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Rambert Dance Company

'Cardoon Club', 'Roses', 'Monolith'

by David Mead

May 24, 2011 -- Sadler's Wells Theatre, London, UK

Paul Taylor’s work does not get much of a showing here in Britain, so top marks to Rambert artistic director Mark Baldwin for bringing “Roses” to the company’s repertory. 25 years after it was made it is a work that not only still looks fresh, original, but that is utterly captivating.

To Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll” five couples explore the reality of courtship. With the women in long navy blue dresses and the men in informal grey and brown shirts and trousers, it is decorous and gracious, yet rather ‘matter of fact’ and unromantic. Each pair comes forward to explore the theme before returning to the group. Taylor makes much use circles, both in individual movement and by having the dancers return often to dance in a round, their hands reaching out to the next dancer’s shoulders. The beautiful duets are interrupted often by moments of uncertainty as the women reach out, sometimes finding their partner’s head, sometimes only air. But the joy of togetherness is there too, revealed in the dancers forward rolling or cartwheeling over each other.

Just when you think Taylor has said all there is to say, he surprises by introducing a sixth couple, all in white, perfection to set against what has gone before. To Heinrich Baermann’s “Adagio for Clarinet and Strings” they are all sweetness and romance. They are, perhaps, the romantic ideal that we would all like courtship to be. The uncomplicated nature of the piece continues right to the end as Taylor eschews the expected finale, preferring to have the pair join the others reclining on the floor. Simple looking maybe, but even 25 years after it was made it is a work that

If anything, even more engaging, albeit this time in a rather more haunting way, was Tim Rushton’s “Monolith”. Rushton is one of those British choreographers who, although trained at home, has made his name largely abroad. Indeed, I suspect that until his Danish Dance Theatre toured here earlier in the year few dancegoers would have heard of him.

“Monolith” is set in a most other-worldly landscape, the stage dominated by beautiful bronze pillars that could be read as mean-made or natural, set against a low-lying vista, the whole bathed in golden light. It could be prehistoric, it could be alien, take your pick. In contrast to the serene setting, the choreography is busy with an underlying tension. Rushton’s powerful combination of classical ballet and contemporary dance makes for a complex, fluid movement vocabulary. The dancers in their burnished bronze singlets and trunks seemed like more like creatures than humans, searching for something, although for what we know not. There are lots of entrances and exits as the dance drives ever forward. It is all wonderfully inspiring. You don’t want to take your eyes off the stage for a second.

“Monolith” showed the Rambert dancers to their absolute best. I wish the same could be said about “Cardoon Club”, Henrietta Horn’s sideways look at a German night club. On the positive side it is colourful and has some great designs by Michael Howells, but while Horn has some interesting ideas they certainly do not stretch to 45 minutes. It failed to impress previously and was even more disappointing second time around, the attempts at humour now raising barely a smile. The choreography, which comprises mostly of posing and shaking torsos is dreadfully banal and repetitive, as is Benjamin Pope’s Hammond-organ based music.

Some wonderful news was announced during the evening. For many years the Rambert Dance Company has been based in a cramped, outdated building in Chiswick, West London. But two £500,000 contributions from charitable foundations made recently has pushed Rambert Moves, the company’s project to create a new home in Central London on the South Bank, to just £1 million short of its target £19.6 million. The company are now preparing to start work on the site, with preparations for construction planned to begin this July.

In the autumn Rambert Dance Company will be touring to Salford, Bath, Glasgow, Norwich, London (Sadler’s Wells), Bradford and Plymouth with a programme including Mark Baldwin’s new “Seven for a secret never to be told” For full details see

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