Review: Rambert Dance Company in Hush/ Scribblings/ A Linha Curva at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 12 - 16 May 09
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Wednesday 13 May 2009

Rambert Dance Company 'Hush' 12-16 May, Sadler's Wells. Photo: Anthony Crickmay

Performance 12 May

This was an evening for dancers as much as anyone else. Their abundant joy evident throughout these works; a small cast of six relished the soft sentimentality in the London première of Christopher Bruce’s Hush; seventeen performers were let loose in the pure, free movement of Doug Varone’s Scribblings and the whole company, augmented by “guests” from the Rambert School, comprised a cast of 28 for *A Linha Curva* – a pulsating fix of thumping energy that had even the corporate guests in pinstripe suits jumping to their feet. Marvellous stuff!

Bruce is, of course, returning home to the company he directed for 8 years not so long ago; bringing with him a work that he made on the Houston Ballet in 2006. Whilst born in the USA, Hush was conceived by Rambert, inspired by the gift of a Bobby McFerrin CD at Bruce’s leaving party. It’s a gentle, loving work that takes a while to warm the soul but then builds in layers of sympathetic movement responses to the music (McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma) into an absorbing and tender ballet. Six dancers – portraying a family (mum, dad, and two children of each gender) – are superb, each having a chance to shine in a series of duets and solos that enriched their characterisations and illustrated the music with a simple, but profound, honesty. As the parents, Angela Towler and Jonathan Goddard moved me with their struggle to juggle serious, mature responsibilities while still recognising the inner child within. Pieter Symonds (here the elder daughter) was sensational in all three works – singularly prominent through her fluid, classical movement even when sharing the stage with 27 others; and the younger children (Thomasin Gülgeç and Estela Merlos) got to have fun with their own ebullient solos. The later stages brought forth a contagion of audible sighs from audience members around me; so it seems churlish to have any quibbles, but it was a shame to fluff a music cue, twice, and some of the movement motifs, such as the chicken-wing struts and hoedown-style waistcoat pulling, became just a little too repetitive, but this is picking nits from a bald man.

The middle work is the one I knew and still liked least of all. But, I can see why Varone’s Scribblings appeal to those who prefer their dance in abstract, free-flowing pools. Varone’s inspiration for the work was cultivated from the imagery of cockroaches scuttling away from the light that he remembered from his days as a young dancer living in an old apartment block. The score of John Adams’ Chamber Symphony does little for me and whilst I appreciated the dancers’ joie de vivre in tracing the vibrant architecture of the work, only the central duet of Gülgeç and Malgorzata Dzierzon really appealed.

Itzik Galili is a choreographer new to me but one whose work I’m now keen to explore further; his A Linha Curva – originally made in São Paulo in 2005 – is just the perfect way to send an audience home happy. Such an absolute surge of electric energy; a fusion of pulsating percussion, brilliant lighting patterns (also designed by Galili) and highly structured, yet occasionally anarchic, choreography. The grid-like patterns of movement with dancers stepping onto squares that lit up individually or in rows and columns seemed sometimes to suggest that the performers were pieces in a living board game.

If the intent of the work was not clear – and it had no need to be – the sheer joy in its performance shone from the stage, spreading throughout the audience to climax in a frenetic conclusion, accentuating the individual spirit that lives within any disciplined group dynamic. A great end to an evening of powerful and expressive dance, brilliantly performed by this unique ensemble.

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