Rambert2 + Rambert
Grey Matter, E2 7SD, Killer Pig, Ghost Dances
London, Sadler’s Wells
6 November 2018
Gallery of Rambert2 pictures by Foteini Christofilopoulou
Rambert’s latest programme is a night of hellos and goodbyes, marking the debut of the company’s new standalone junior faction, Rambert2, as well the final performance of a repertory favourite, Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances.
Formed of 13 young dancers plucked from an 800-strong audition pool, Rambert2 includes some standout performers who could easily hold their own against Rambert’s seasoned professionals – a promising dynamic, since the troupe is likely to be a feeder for the mainstage company. They’re a cohesive flock too. Benoit Swan Pouffer’s brand-new Grey Matter gives a glimpse of a tight ensemble humming like a machine. The piece dwells on the physical and conceptual aspects of memory, pitching figurative snapshots of community alongside imagery that hints at neurological mechanisms like neurons and synapses.
Rapper GAIKA’s throbbing beat brings an air of drama, as does Lee Curran’s stark, slanted lighting design. Dressed in spandex that resembles fascia and flashes actual muscle, the group sashays and jerks, thrusts and lurches, softening these jolts with the odd lyrical extension. Popping and contractions are the twin pillars of the choreography, the dancers wrenching their cores like they’re taking a punch.
A smattering of solos reveals individual strengths, like Fay Stoeser’s brisk composure, soundest as she pulses her way through a slow-moving huddle. Across the piece are glimpses of the advanced technique these young dancers bring to the table: deep, luxurious pliés, perfectly notched attitudes and développés.
Pouffer’s work is a gritty appetiser, but it’s Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s restaged Killer Pig that drives home the edge this troupe has in its sights. Echoing the body-pumping vigour of Grey Matter, the choreography layers on eye-grabbing panache in the way of arched spines and hiked legs, nude silhouettes and pelvic-led manoeuvres. The fierce fashionista mood is as unsettling as it is gripping, delivering a swaggering pack ready to bring us to our knees.
Hua Han is the forerunner here, mastering the tightrope between creepy and charismatic with his sinewy skulks and contortions. Salomé Pressac is also riveting, goddess-like in her shoulder-rolling struts. Like Grey Matter, the work drifts somewhat as it hits the half-hour mark; both pieces could use a judicious editor. Here, though, the length feels like a dare: just as the performance appears to wind down, the crowd hankering to applaud it, it revs back up for a gruelling 15-minute dance to the death, the cast reprising their thrusts with impressive stamina.
Rafael Bonachela’s 2004 duet E2 7SD provides a brief interlude of forceful, angular modern dance. There are abrasive stage effects to match Conor Kerrigan and Aishwarya Raut’s distorted, muscular tangles: harsh lights levelled at the audience, smoke blasted in, and a clanging soundscape threaded with whisperings and clinks. It’s an elaborate atmosphere the piece doesn’t need; the choreography and the dancers’ performance is intense as it is.
It’s something of a relief to take in the swaying pleasure of Bruce’s Ghost Dances amid these strident contemporary numbers. Devised in 1981 to mark the victims of Pinochet’s regime in Chile, the ballet conjures skeleton-faced wraiths and vivid folksy frolics, 11 dancers from Rambert’s senior crew breathing life into dives, extensions and huge swinging lifts against a backdrop of misty mountains. Daniel Davidson, Liam Francis and Juan Gil are ghoulish and meditative spectres, while Carolyn Bolton and Hannah Rudd, in particular, bring a frisky spirit to their bouncy village dances.
A portrait of serenity compared to the programme’s other pieces, Ghost Dances still strikes a sharpness all of its own. It’s sad to see it leave the Rambert catalogue, but with the talent of Rambert2 waiting in the wings, it looks like an exciting road ahead.