Rambert Dance Company at the Linbury, 2/5/01
Interesting to see itís not only the Royal who use the Linbury as an experimental space. Rambert Dance Companyís regular London venue is Sadlers Wells, but they are currently appearing at the Linbury, Covent Gardenís 400-seat studio theatre, in a mixed programme including two new works from company members. Alongside the new work a more familiar piece may have attracted the crowds - Merce Cunninghamís Beach Birds, first performed by Rambert last year. Thereís a lot to be said for seeing the dancers close up in the intimate setting of the Linbury: but Iím not so certain that showing new work of an abstract nature on the same bill as Beach Birds does many favours to the younger choreographers. Itís such a refined and beautifully structured piece, the product of so much experience, that other pieces must necessarily seem less polished beside it.
We opened with a world premiere, At Any Time, by Rafael Bonachela. This was for six women and two men, set to Bach cello suites, played onstage by Ben Chappell. The dance in this seemed to switch between working with the music and working against it. Some of the movement looked very formal, with both women and men repeating the same movements: but at other times the movement had a strained, effortful quality - dancers tugging, pushing and pulling each other - which didnít relate clearly to the music. The lighting was rather on the dark side. Nevertheless it looked a better crafted work than Bonachelaís previous work for Rambert shown at Sadlers.
This was followed by a guest appearance from former Rambert dancer David Hughes in a short piece, ĎHurricane - a pantomimeí by Christopher Bruce, Rambertís artistic director. Bruce has always had an affection for using Bob Dylan songs for narrative pieces - it previously brought memorable results in Moonshine. Your reaction to this work is probably going to depend on your fondness for Dylan - itís set to Hurricane, a single 8 minute song, Dylan at his most verbose. I really enjoyed this piece, and I thought it marked something of a return to form for Bruce whose more recent Rambert works havenít seen him at his best. For a single dancer in whiteface to somehow act out all the parts in this long and complex narrative sounds fundamentally unlikely, but Hughes is a remarkably charismatic dancer, and the movement is simple, economical and fluent. A very impressive performance.
Beach Birds followed after the interval. It was a delight to see, but it almost seemed too monumental for its surroundings. The musicians, with their pianos and rainsticks were tucked away in each corner: if you were seated down towards the front the separation of sounds was very noticeable. It gave the sense of practically being on the beach, with the action going on all around you. Its effect is calm, restful and meditative, with long passages of stillness or the gentlest, smoothest adjustments of posture as those birds turned on the wind. Lovely and very restorative, somehow.
The final item was an upbeat piece, Twin Suite 2, created by Glenn Wilkinson to music by Aphex Twin. This opened rather uncertainly with two of the women squabbling like petulant eight year olds, but rapidly developed into something much more interesting. The lighting built up slowly into more structured stabs of light, as the dance moved faster, with the dancers propelled in groups across the stage. It was fast and frantic at times, but never undisciplined. The women in particular looked very cool and self possessed. I havenít seen anything created by Glenn Wilkinson before, but this looked a solidly made and well constructed work, and it didnít outstay its welcome. A suitably rousing and upbeat item to close the evening, which received a very positive response.