Last night I attended the Rambert School's end of term performance at its headquarters in Brunel University in Twickenham, south-west London. The school is blessed with a decent theatre space with raked seating for (I'm guessing) about 100, and a reasonably spacious 'stage' area.
I'm an old hand at schools' performances, so I never expect too much, always bearing in mind that I am not watching professionals. Over the years I've had the luck to encounter some thrilling performances by young untried dancers and choreographers, but sadly these have not necessarily made it to later fame and fortune, so I'm never downhearted at a disappointing evening because the reverse might be quite possible - the talent on display, even if meagre, might somehow blossom into later glory.
But I don't think this was the case last night. I would have to admit to being somewhat disappointed by the Rambert Schools's performance, simply because it didn't live up to past experience. There is no doubting the commitment of the students - both dancers and choreographers - but perhaps because I am a classical dance fan I found the performances of the few classical items unsatisfactory, notably in the opening pas de trois from 'Paquita'; all three dancers appeared entirely unaware of their upper bodies and consequently their shoulders and backs were disappointingly rigid. If the Rambert School presents classical pieces like this, it must indicate that the company is - at least partially - returning to its classical roots, so it has to look seriously at these problems.
But no school can fail with Balanchine's heavenly 'Serenade' to the Tchaikovsky music because it was choreographed for students, and here the Rambert's students shone in the memorable opening movement, accompanied by Frans Linthorst on the piano. The faultless architecture of Balanchine's choreography stands the test of time, and does both himself and the youngest and most hesitant of students proud.
Ross McKim - an experienced choreographer - made 'Dances from the Messiah' to Handel music, a rousing piece especially in the last movement 'Hallelujah'. He was very well served by the dancers. Hannah Vassallo, Nozomi Arai, Haruka Takahashi, Kialea Williams and Henrik Lund.
Elsewhere on the programme there was quite a lot of the expected studenty self-indulgent stuff, and I have no wish to put it down, because this is is a necessary exercise - they have to get it out of their systems, and sometimes it is where the first gleams of real talent can be spotted. Outstanding, though, was the penultimate piece 'Fading Hope' choreographed and danced by Haruka Takahashi to the Satie 'Gymnopedie' music. This tiny, white-clad young woman threw herself into into the sentimentailty of her piece with energy, fluid technique and heartbreaking artistry. I loved her.
Touchingly, the week's performances were dedicated to the late Leslie Edwards. The programme notes by Hans-Theodor Wohlfahrt state that Edwards was a regular guest at Rambert School performances, especially since his retirement, and was always 'full of praise and encouragement to students and teachers'. I think he would have enjoyed this show, whatever its shortcomings.
The Rambert School's next performance will be in July and I'll post exact dates when I get them. London-based Ballet Co-ers might be interested.