Rambert Dance Company, Sadlers Wells, 15 June 2001
75th Anniversary Celebration
Christopher Bruce emerged from behind the curtain at the beginning of Rambert’s celebratory 75th anniversary performance to be met by the sort of tumultuous applause that normally greets the close of a very successful evening. ‘Ah’, he said, ‘always nice to have the family in’. And that’s the kind of occasion it was: a low key but affectionate celebration, rather than a glittering or fashionable gala.
The programme for the evening was the same as earlier in the week, and the only special additions for the evening were a short speech from Bruce to introduce the programme (including wry memories of how Rambert avoided paying her dancers for as long as possible), an acknowledgement of all Rambert members past and present in the audience (a fair number, generously applauded), and, displayed everywhere through the foyers, the Rambert Roll of Honour – a listing of everyone who had ever worked with the company from the very beginning in whatever capacity – dancers, notators, choreographers, designers. This was eagerly consulted by many members of the audience during the intervals, and it’s a fascinating list. There’s so many names from dance history there – though I also had the sense that many were looking up old friends or colleagues.
There was a very lively audience, as this was one of Sadlers prom performances – the seats in he front stalls had been removed to allow standing for a very modest price, and the place was really packed.
It’s a kind of statement of the company’s outlook that for their anniversary celebration they did not look deliberately backward at all to the wide range of work they have created or appeared in in the past, but forward as usual – new works and new acquisitions.
Jeremy James’s Cheese opened the evening. The company performed one of James’ works in 1999, and this was similar in tone to the earlier Gaps, Lapse, and Relapse – and for me had the same curious sense of melancholy. Cheese is for five dancers, in everyday clothes, set to assorted club music. But nobody is having a good time. The dancers avoid each others eyes as strenuously as commuters on the Northern Line. They are in proximity to each other, but never in contact. Some interesting, twisted and complex movement, but the piece went on slightly longer than it needed to.
The central item was a relatively new acquisition for Rambert, Kylian’s Symphony of Psalms, which NDT brought to this theatre a year or so back. It was very popular then, and was warmly received this time. Rambert aren’t necessarily quite under the skin of this work yet, but they are on their way. Eight couples take their turns in various groupings across the stage to Stravinsky’s music – both formal and haunting. There’s no plot, but the sensation of many personal stories, hinted at, but just out of reach – regret, longing, remembered love. The ending, as all the couples walk very slowly into the darkness at the back of the stage is profoundly touching – some rage against the dying of the light, but they all go in the end.
Rounding off the evening was Christopher Bruce’s Rooster. This is I suppose, a raiding of the back catalogue, but it’s such a popular item, and the ideal closer, that I’m always happy to see it. It certainly looks as if Bruce enjoyed his adolescence more than Jeremy James. Bruce plots the clash of the sexes to an exuberant Rolling Stones soundtrack – the women get the better of it, just. It’s enormous fun, adored by the audience.
To an enthusiastic response, Bruce invited former Artistic Directors of Rambert onto the stage to join the entire company for the final call – Norman Morrice, John Chesworth, Robert North and Richard Alston.