Rambert Dance Company’s current performances at Sadler’s Wells confirm the pursuit of the troupe’s mission: to encourage innovative and daring new choreographic works, while at the same time performing less recent and more established pieces of their almost eighty year old repertoire. The result is a mix of styles, travelling through time, from a comic scene in a bar in the 1930ies in Judgment of Paris by Antony Tudor, to artistic director Mark Baldwin’s newly conceived Constant Speed, inspired by the groundbreaking work of Albert Einstein one hundred years ago. Also included in this journey are the new Momenta by company member Mikaela Polley and Dark Elegies, another of Tudor’s works and his masterpiece according to Marie Rambert herself.
The two established repertoire pieces of the programme, Judgment of Paris and Dark Elegies, were exquisitely performed, while being so refreshingly different from one another. Whereas Judgment of Paris, the show opener, is comic and light hearted, emphasising characters and gestures that tell a story to live piano music, the atmosphere of Dark Elegies is much sadder and more subdued. Although the choreography of the latter does not follow a specific plot, the tone of the piece is nevertheless distinctly tragic, notably because of the musical score, Gustav Mahler’s Songs on the Death of Children, which was also sung live.
Mikaela Polley’s Momenta was a clear demonstration of the company’s creative efforts and the dancers’ fantastic technical and artistic abilities. The ten dancers in simple blue and green costumes moved to an original score by Patrick Nunn, gaining momentum, constantly building in energy, until one didn’t know what was actually giving the impulse to increase the speed: the music or the movement?
The intended climax of the evening was Constant Speed, commissioned by the Institute of Physics as part of the celebrations for the Einstein Year 2005. With a cast of nineteen dancers, a score consisting of a medley of pieces by Franz Lehár, costumes of every colour of the rainbow, including the headdresses of the ladies, and an inventive lighting design, the piece had every chance to impress – and it did. It opened with a group of dancers in white whirling around on stage, executing very fast and complex sequences of steps, evolving into solos, duets, trios – every configuration possible - whilst exchanging the white costumes in favour of coloured ones. The different sections ranged in character from comic to sexy and seductive, from competitive to contemplative, not to forget the occasional circus effect, so that Baldwin’s piece was full of happy surprises. Don’t expect to learn anything about physics though, because I think Ray Rivers, a professor of theoretical physics who was consulted while the piece was conceived, was right when he said, ”I see Constant Speed in the first instance as a celebratory work … but definitely not attempting a literal representation.” And a celebration it was!