Rambert Dance Company Sadlers Wells 13 November 2001
Rambertís first programme of its two week run at Sadlers Wells includes two items which the company first presented at the much smaller Linbury Theatre at the ROH in May this year. The Linbury season was described at the time as experimental Ė trying out works in a 400 seat theatre being a much less risky business than in Sadlers with its capacity of 1400. Christopher Bruce must have been sufficiently encouraged by the response to give the works another outing. They read quite differently on the larger stage though, and the audience reactions were quite different for the two venues.
Bruceís Hurricane went down a storm at the Linbury. Itís set to the Bob Dylan song of that name, which tells the story of a black boxer framed for a murder. Bruce describes this as Ďa pantomimeí, and a single dancer in whiteface effectively plays all the parts. In the intimate surroundings of the Linbury this worked well Ė you could see the sweat and the effort (itís a punishing job for the dancer) and David Hughes had a ferociously angry presence. On the larger stage, Simon Cooper had a harder time of it putting the same vehemence across, and it seemed more naturalistic and softer, less stylised, but also less involving. Perhaps a key difference was the audience. At Sadlers, there are always lots of school parties, and last night there were coach loads of teenage girls who probably havenít heard of Bob Dylan. The audience in the Linbury might have been more familiar with the music. In May, I recall that Hurricane had perhaps more audience impact than Twin Suite 2: the reverse appeared to be the case here.
But then Twin Suite 2, by Rambert dancer Glenn Wilkinson is set to music by Aphex Twin, which might be more to the school partiesí taste. This opens with Samantha Smith and Ana Lujan Sanchez in a duet which is querulous and bad tempered, like two ten years olds bickering in the playground. Thereís a strong sense of boys vs. girls showing off and a feeling of adolescent competitiveness, but no narrative. There were some interesting ideas here, but the work seemed more exposed on the Sadlers stage. Itís a challenge though for someone starting out as a choreographer to find they are on the same programme as a Rambert premiere of a Merce Cunningham work, and the comparison doesnít do Twin Suite 2 any favours.
Ground Level Overlay is the latest in the line of several Merce Cunningham works staged by Rambert in recent years. This is set to music by Start Dempster, recorded in a huge water tank with an immensely reverberating sound, supplemented by musicians in the auditorium adding further reverberations on what might have been a conch shell. A restful experience. But the dancers, fifteen of them, are anything but at rest. They flicker across the stage, now in one group, now in another. Itís against the music rather than with it, and yet the overall effect is limpid and beautiful, elegantly crafted, and the moves have a curious quality of being unexpected and yet perfectly natural and right at the same time. The designs are very attractive though difficult to describe- many strange knotted items hanging from a pole as a backdrop.
The evening finished with a revival of Javier de Frutosí The Celebrated Soubrette, made for the company last year. I wondered when this was programmed who would replace Elizabeth Old, who has now left the company, in the lead role, where she had a fine donít-dare-mess-with-me attitude. Well no one did: she is back as a guest, and her performance was possibly even more confrontational and moody than before. De Frutos work looks at a line up of Las Vegas dancers, all sequins, fishnets and high heels, and shows us bitching, insecurities and unhappiness. His dance vocabulary is quite distinct Ė although it borrows at lot of wriggling hips and rolling shoulders from its showgirls subject matter it has an oddball off centredness that is very much his own. A popular piece.