An Evening of new choreography 2013 – Yimani, Entre tu y yo, Solo, Reminiscence, Hikikomori
London, Sadler’s Wells – Lilian Baylis Studio
17 December 2013
Gallery of pictures by Foteini Christofilopoulou
There is no doubting Rambert’s commitment to creating new work. An Evening of new choreography 2013 delivered what it promised, five premieres by Malgorzata Dzierzon, Dane Hurst, Estela Merlos, Mbulelo Ndabeni and Patricia Okenwa, with new music – performed live for three of the pieces – in front of an enthusiastic audience. These were the first works rehearsed at the company’s new home near Waterloo bridge in London, artistic director Mark Baldwin proudly informed us like an indulgent godfather. They were brought to the stage thanks to the ever-enlightened encouragement the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
While improved studios will undoubtedly have an impact on the quality of Rambert’s rehearsal conditions they do not have an immediate impact on creativity. However well performed, the new works on display were all rather samey and not that memorable. Nor do the tennis court proportions of the Lilian Baylis studio make for ideal viewing, the proximity of the seating to the wide stage requires constant head turning to keep up with Rambert’s energetic powerhouse dancers.
The presentation – a black curtain was the background for all the works – and rudimentary lighting worked against a strong theatrical impact. Rambert’s investment in new choreography and new music is admirable – but let the company champion too some new design talent, something that another foundation might support perhaps. Rambert – rightly – trumpet their Diaghilevian credentials but on this occasion the lack of design unfairly threw added scrutiny on the choreography.
Yimani by Ndabeni was a timely celebration, dedicated to African women who fought apartheid. A primal force of five women in tribal print tops gives a clue to Ndabeni’s theme – but the rhythmic, pulsating, circling energy that these women embody can be enjoyed on purely physical terms. The extreme lines of the choreography and the power of Kym Alexander, Lucy Balfour, Carolyn Bolton, Antonette Dayrit and Simone Damberg Würtz make you believe there is no barrier that these women would not overcome.
Entre tú y yo by Merlos is described by her as a description of every ego’s struggle for expression. It was a quest that defeated an energetic and selfless quartet of dancers. I did not find any enlightenment in their restless language. Strongest to emerge was Dzierzon’s Hikikomori apparently about social reclusiveness, though Dzierzon’s treatment of her theme was not didactic. Intense anguish was suggested as a group (of friends perhaps?) ebbed in ever-changing permutations across the flow of Kate Whitley’s new string quartet. The ending – an abrupt closure – was dramatically and musically unresolved, effectively so.
Angst was also the order of the day in Hurst’s Reminiscence, the only work to have a design element, a slab of red carpeting and benches manipulated as part of the action. A man approaching the end of his life grapples with his memories literally and figuratively – an intense and physical combat, well served by Luke Ahmet, Adam Blyde, Mark Kimmett, Hannah Rudd and Balfour again.
Equally intense was Solo created by Okenwa, a deliberate challenge for the dancer Antonette Dayrit, designed to push her to the limit of her abilities. Perhaps most memorable was how Okenwa featured Dayrit’s hugely expressive hands but altogether the result is a quicksilver showcase of Dayrit’s very striking and expressive presence.