Review: Rambert Dance Company in bloom/Pond Way/Constant Speed at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 22-27 May
Reviewed by Lindsey Clarke - Wednesday 24 May 2006

Entering Sadlers Wells auditorium you’re not usually greeted by a big ginger kitten telling you it loves you but it certainly makes a pleasant change and got me in a genial mood for the premiere of Aletta Collins’ bloom. It was great to see a Rambert ensemble piece that allowed the dancers to express their personalities and spread some genuine fun and warmth through the Wells. Collins’ piece explores “the idea of creating that perfect romantic moment”. Set to a lively gypsy inspired soundtrack the 16 dancers develop individual dance motifs, dash around and split off into polymorphous pairings or seductively sway en masse, all the while dodging or courting a bouquet of flowers, suspended by a rope, negotiating a door and largely ignoring an oversized ginger cat loitering upstage right. Intermittently serenaded by a strolling, lounge suited band (with original music courtesy of London Musici’s Robert Millet) the loose narrative centres on one coy pair who repeatedly fail to come together; resolving in a charmingly humorous ending. bloom is a refreshing tonic adding to Rambert’s repertoire and a colourful, entertaining, light hearted morsel for their audience’s consumption. It was rapturously received.

Rambert’s premiere of Merce Cunningham’s Pond Way in Brighton earlier this year received good reviews for both production and performance yet I sat through this unmoved, wondering why they’d bothered to include it. Tonight’s performance couldn’t have offered a more striking contrast to the opening piece. The company seemed off colour. Ill lit in yellow, their baggy white pyjamas unflattering against a dour background of Lichtenstein dots they didn’t appear to have the heart for it. Eno’s soundscape was initially atmospheric yet the dancers seemed out of sync and unusually wobbly executing Cunningham’s exacting and subtle choreography. Apart from some identifiably froggy moments, there was disappointingly little lyrical, contemplative or suggestive of nature in this uninspiring pond.

Unfortunately, Constant Speed failed to pick up the pace. I really wanted to like this when it premiered a year ago but on second viewing there’s still something that stops it from being the buoyant, jostling, science/dance crossover it should be and again it felt like the Company was lacking ‘oomph’ or magic ensemble glue. The opening sections featuring the homogeneous white swimming-hatted female dancers were untidy, meaning that the nice quirks of choreography Mark Baldwin grew out of the concept of Brownian motion were all but lost. The piece kept threatening to get better, and the later multicoloured stages were more tightly delivered, but it seemed that the Company barely made it to the end at the same time as London Musici. There were lovely moments; the big full colour spectrum waltzes worked well and Angela Towler’s wonky shoulder stands with upside down splits are a favourite, as are Ana Lujan Sanchez’s meanderings around the discoball. On the whole though, these anthropomorphised dancing particles didn’t wow in the way they should. However, the majority of the audience must have disagreed with me as applause was certainly not muted. Rambert are greatly loved at Sadlers Wells. Hopefully, therefore, they will step up their game as the week progresses without losing any of the first night joy of bloom.

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