Feature: Rambert's 75th.

Friday 7 April 2006

Marie Rambert 75 Years of Rambert Dance
On 15 June 1926, the visionary Polish dance teacher, MARIE RAMBERT, presented a short ballet by her pupil Frederick Ashton at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, marking the birth of what was to become Ballet Rambert, arguably the most influential force in the development of British ballet.

Seventy five years later, RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY is Britain’s oldest dance company and its flagship contemporary dance ensemble, renowned for the breadth of its repertoire and the superb quality of its dancers.

detritus by Wayne McGregor Current season
The celebrations started earlier this year. They have included performances at the Linbury Studio Theatre in the newly refurbished opera house, a season of short films at the National Film Theatre and the opening of a retrospective exhibition which continues to run at the Theatre Museum, Covent Garden until 28 October.
A two week season at Sadler’s Wells (June 12 – 23), included new work by Richard Alston and Wayne Macgregor and a revival of Siobhan Davies work ‘Sounding’. Jeremy James, who died last year, had been due to make a new work for the occasion. As a tribute, the first programme opens with his work ‘Cheese’.

After a summer tour of the UK the company return to Sadler’s Wells for an Autumn Season (13 – 24 November) It includes the London Premiere of ‘New Bruce’; the Company Premiere of Merce Cunningham’s ‘Ground Level Overlay’; and Mats Ek’s ‘She Was Black, which returns to London following its Company Premiere in November 2000.

Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton Jane Pritchard, Rambert Archivist, looks back at the history of the company:

Rambert may be Britain’s oldest company, but it has never been insular. Its longevity is due to a constant readiness to respond to the changing world, and present fresh and original dance works to new audiences.

The Company owes its existence to the Polish-born dancer and teacher, Marie Rambert (1888-1982) whose initial passion for dance came from seeing Isadora Duncan perform in 1904. By her mid-20s, Rambert had a rich heritage of dance and theatre to draw on. She had been exposed to mid-European developments during the three years (1909-1912) spent studying eurhythmics with Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and then she spent a season as a member of Serge Diaghilev’s innovative Ballets Russes, serving as Vaslav Nijinsky’s assistant on Le Sacre du Printemps. Marie Rambert’s varied background partly explains her enthusiasm for a wide variety of dance, which she later shared with her pupils and her audience, and accounts for her constant willingness to encourage new developments.

From its earliest years, Rambert has both embraced the major internationally acclaimed works and encouraged new creations. It has repeatedly been recognised as a choreographers’ company. As the Company developed, particularly in response to needs during the 1939-45 War, it shifted its identity from a privately owned, London-based workshop to a publicly funded touring company that presented occasional London seasons. In 1966, facing competition from other touring companies, Rambert took the bold step of reducing its size, returning to its creative roots and, as American modern dance was attracting attention, adding this training to the dancers’ classical ballet background. These changes initiated others; the range of music was broadened, new choreographers were encouraged, and the Company looked fresh in environments enhanced by developments in lighting. The American, Glen Tetley, revealed the potential of marrying classical and contemporary choreography, and Christopher Bruce emerged from the ranks of the dancers as major new choreographic talent.

For three decades Rambert continued to evolve under a succession of Artistic Directors (Norman Morrice, John Chesworth, Robert North, Richard Alston) each taking a slightly different view of how Marie Rambert’s intentions could be realised. In 1994 Christopher Bruce was persuaded to return to Rambert as its Artistic Director. He formed a new company encompassing a wide range of techniques, continuing to encourage the development of new choreographers, and creating boldly theatrical dances with clear themes to place beside international masterworks by eminent choreographers. Supported since 1977 by Christopher Nourse as Executive Director, Bruce has ambitious plans for Rambert as the Company celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2001.

For Rambert the past is not remote, it informs current policies and productions. Never content to rest on past laurels Rambert remains one of the most adventurous and artistically rich dance companies in the world. Its artists have always been encouraged to learn from different styles and Rambert’s superb dancers welcome the challenges presented by the richly varied repertory.

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