What on earth was going on in Draw from Within, Rambert’s collaboration with the Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus? Surreality was the order of the day – there were hints at a narrative at various points, but they evaporated like the smoke trails that the dancers moved with at one point in this 70-minute show. It was, the programme note told us, “an exhilarating reflection on a time when we’re desperate for old fashioned physical interaction, and find ourselves”. Maybe this worked better in the piece’s original live streamed iteration last year.
It started with subfusc eeriness, two male dancers emerging to strut through some flamenco-toreador-type movements, as scenery backboards were wheeled around them, and other dancers scuttled about in the gloom with a naked flame. A snatch of Ted Hughes poetry was added to the mix. All promisingly strange – if a little hard to discern from the first circle.
Various horror tropes appeared as the piece progressed: the dancers turned into (impressively juddering) zombies; a woman was trapped repeatedly in taut wires stretched across the stage and manipulated by others; a “miracle baby”, born fully grown, went on a rampage; a woman found herself in a mysterious, sinister medical institution. Huge butcher’s hooks hung menacingly from the flies. Music choices veered repeatedly towards the enervatingly dissonant.
Yet the sense of tension and jeopardy that was built up in each scenario just petered out, leaving you disappointed rather than relieved. You would be right to point out that irrational lurches of theme and tone are to be expected in an evening of Wandekeybus’s choreography, but it was still frustrating to be left with the impression that this show was a devised work that simply hadn’t been worked through enough.
What kept you watching was the 14 Rambert dancers – their extraordinary athleticism, fluid lines, and visible joy at being unleashed on a stage again. Their explosive energy was frankly astonishing – among a formidably talented troupe, Liam Francis’s liquid mercury agility, Aishwarya Raut’s raw power and Naya Lovell’s breezily confident ability to keep up with the shape-shifting demands placed on her, all stood out.