That’s right, they used to be Ballet Rambert. But the ‘ballet’ has been dropped as the dance company moves with the times. And their game is most certainly upped. This tour has a three-act structure, the first two breathtaking and the last thought provoking.
The curtain rises on A Linha Curva. The set is dark and bare. The dancers wear silver discs around their necks, catching the stage lights and dazzling the audience. And then they explode into a sensual riot of movement. The music is purely percussive, all whistles, drumbeats and body slaps. The young performers, muscles straining through their costumes, weave in and out of a choreography that is athletic, acrobatic, and mesmerizing. A celebration of youth and life that had the audience on the edge of their seats. One particularly electric move had a young man leap and fly through the air, his legs opening around the head of another dancer who in turn fell backwards. The first dancer fell with him to land on his feet, the second bent double, supporting himself on his arms. Get that wrong, and one or both of the performers could have needed an emergency trip to A and E.
The second act was Symbiosis. Against a backdrop of metal stripes, the troop acted out a dance symbolising ‘the dynamic patterns of behaviour and energy created in cities,’ (to quote the program). Melody was now added to the strong percussive beat, in a style reminiscent of Philip Glass. More phenomenal dance steps. The minimal set and costumes, allow for many interpretations. For this reviewer, it was all about the ascendancy of the human spirit. Strangely moving, more than a few theatregoers found tears in their eyes.
The final act, Goat, was different again. Now we were in a sleazy dancehall, complete with three-piece band and the songs of Nina Simone. One dancer steps out, Miguel Altunaga, and becomes our guide, talking us through the secret ritual we are about to witness. He’s very funny, and does a great job. But the mood turns darker rapidly, as a blindfolded woman picks a youth from the line, and we learn he has been chosen to dance himself to death. And the others cover his sinewy body in sticky notes, with words on them like: pain, HIV, the boy who spat at me. What followed was a bleak exploration of the human soul.
This Rambert tour is an excellent production of modern dance. Even if you’re not an aficionado of ballet, this will keep you astonished and enthralled all night.
Rambert performs at the Theatre Royal from Tuesday February 27th to Thursday March 1st 2018