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Rambert Dance Company

Season of New Choreography (programme 1)

by David Mead

May 22, 2009 -- Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Rambert Dance Company has always recognised the importance of promoting choreographic talent found within the company’s own ranks, and this year presented three evenings of works by company dancers.

Given that all the choreographers in this first programme were among the more experienced in the company’s ranks, much of the dance on show was disappointing. Like many of the pieces on show, Alexander Whitley’s “Iatrogenesis” seemed to be full of expansive arms, often used with great energy, at speed, and in huge sweeping movements that hovered over the space. While initially pleasant enough, “Iatrogenesis” rather drifted along with Guy Connelly’s lacklustre colourless score, never really developing, and never really going anywhere. Not for the only time in the evening, I despaired for tone and contrast.

“Conversaciones”, a solo created and danced by Clara Barberá, similarly rather lacked conviction and connection with the audience. The programme talked about a spiral of anxiety, confusion and irrationality, but it was difficult to see any of that as she moved around the stage. Barberá may have been having a conversation with herself, but it was one that stayed very private.

Things picked up a little with Mikaela Polley’s “Meridian,” although it got off to a difficult start. The dancers seemed to be working against Robert Millet’s score, which is somewhat surprising since the work was billed as a collaboration. The dance improved considerably as it progressed, especially in the main duet that formed its centrepiece and proved that dance does not have to be high speed and high energy to make an impact. Apparently about male-female relationships, it was nice to finally see a work that communicated meaning and connected with the audience.

The largest work of the evening, with a cast of twelve, was Patricia Okenwa’s “Mammon.” With dancers dressed in khaki costumes and opening with two protagonists surrounded by the other dancers as if prize-fighters, it certainly projected more than a hint of menace and violence. Although sometimes muddled, and having many of the same problems as earlier works, “Mammon” did gain interest as it proceeded. It was certainly full of energy.

Like last year, it was a work by Martin Joyce and Angela Towler that really shone like a beacon. In what was also the best programme note of the evening by far, they explained how they use music to inspire them. And it showed! “Brevity” was the most well-crafted and musical piece on show. The starting point was a game of chess. Initially there was an almost militaristic feel as the eight dancers moved vertically, horizontally and diagonally around the stage as if in a game of strategy, and they were indeed chess pieces come to life. But it quickly developed into a much more courtly setting, the dance filled with delicate and meaningful courtly gestures and formations. The costumes, music, lighting and dance all came together in a highly satisfying, theatrical whole. “Brevity” definitely deserves a wider audience and cries out to be taken into the main company repertory.

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