Review: Rambert Dance Company in Pond Way/Gran Partita/Anatomica #3 at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 22 - 26 May 07
Reviewed by Graham Watts - Friday 25 May 2007

23 May

I love the egalitarian integrity of Rambert: there are no principal dancers, no stars or, at least, that’s the way it is on paper. By coincidence, I saw the Company at Sadler’s Wells exactly one year ago – on 23 May 2006 – when 18 of the present cohort of 22 dancers were on stage: not a bad retention rate but, on reflection, it’s the three biggest names from then that are missing now: Amy Hollingsworth, Simon Cooper and Ana Luján Sánchez, each of whom tended to lead the works they appeared in. Has the company suffered from the loss of this key trio? On the basis of this programme, I should say not.

Rambert seems to have settled into a pattern for this annual spring show of reviving one of last year’s works to sit alongside two new commissions. The revival was Merce Cunningham’s aquatic adventure in *Pond Life*, a compelling concoction of movement based upon waterborne insect, animal and plant life, inspired by the late Roy Lichtenstein’s dot matrix landscapes and brought to life by Brian Eno’s sonar score. It’s saturated with memorable imagery from a microscopic world where dancers are water boatmen, thrusting their long legs backwards to propel themselves across the pond; mayflies, flitting amongst imaginary reeds; sturdy beetles and sundry bugs, stopping their solitary investigations to suddenly move altogether in close formation; and kaleidoscopic lilies swirling in the wind. It’s a masterpiece of meaningful idealistic dance and this Company serves it well.

Neither of the subsequent new works lived up to this beginning although Karole Armitage’s _*Gran Partita* _stood up well to the risk of being danced to Mozart. Simple pastel-coloured leotards designed by Jean Marc Puissant perfectly complimented the colours conjured up by the score and Armitage’s choreography cleverly used the space enclosed by a semi-circular curtain that shifted up and down during the performance. 11 dancers operated independently or in haphazard groups of 2 or more and came together in seemingly unplanned patterns – the movement apparently inspired by Armitage observing flocks of birds. A work of considerable quality, danced very effectively, this is well worth seeing again.

I’m less sure that I want to see more of André Gingras’ Anatomica #3, which was as daft as its title. It had funny moments in a quirky beginning with a Queen Elizabeth II “looky-likey” standing impassively in the stalls circle as the audience files in: when the curtain rises she’s joined by another and then more until the stage is crammed full of Queens, identically dressed in twin-set, sturdy shoes and blue sash, with cream handbag and matching accessories. Some are truly drag Queens and the whole ensemble makes repetitive, small but somehow very significant movements. We were amused – until it all went haywire. The dancers stripped off and returned in rehearsal wear amply highlighting their considerable musculature, athleticism and gymnastic ability, especially when diving off a steep ramp onto mattresses below. It was like watching a boisterous kids’ outing at ‘Clown Town’ and wondering when it will ever end. Although, paradoxically, the ending – which had the wonderful Pieter Symonds (surely Rambert’s current star) paused off-balance just on the verge of falling from the ramp – was one of the most memorable images of the night.

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