Simple Beauty: Rambert @ the Marlowe

On March 22nd 2012, Rambert Dance Company came to the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, and thanks to a great friend who works there I got a free ticket! Though for a show of the caliber that we saw, I would have paid eagerly. The three pieces presented by this national company for contemporary dance were beautifully refined, packed full of character, modern and powerful.

The first, ‘The Art of Touch,’ defined instantly the overall character of the company in these performances: Beautiful in its simplicity. In regards to the movements of the dancers, the stage and the costumes, there was no clutter, no feel of it being frantic, no unnessecary excess. Refine meant, leaving just the skill of the dancers and their fantastic choreography to create the wonder of the show. As it should be. Costume-wise, the women wore corset tops and simple skirts of an uneven hue that were slightly longer at the back, so in leaps and jumps, the skirt flowed back like a scarf in the breeze, leaving the lower leg bare. A creative alternative to the commonly seen tutu and leotard. The men wore simple waitcoats and dark trousers. With a dark colour palette of deep purple, emerald green, black and a dark ochre, along with the accompaniment being a single harpsichord, the entire piece had the feel of a fairytale, a dream in the woods.

The second piece had the stage unadorned accept for copious weeping williow tendrills that hung down onto the stage like ragged curtains that the dancers danced between and appeared from behind. An enchanting piece with the dancers playing children, with fun and games and the relationships of children being acted out on stage. Again, the costume was unexcessive and highly expressive in its appropriate simplicity. The women wore simple dresses that buttoned up the front, and skirts that held a full shape when they spun. Small details gave individual character to each dancer, with one having a sailor collar, one having long ribbons in her hair and one having an aviator’s hat. The men were dressed even more simply, with an apt boyish carefree spirit. The men, as ‘boys,’ wore simple shorts and white vest tops, with one wearing a sailor top and one being shirtless. A piece as sweet, sensitive and full of the innocence of childhood as any Beatrix Potter story.

The final piece, ‘A Linha Curva,’ was the punched fullstop that ended the trio exquisitely. The most ‘modern’ of the three, with what seemed like the entire company onstage, the dance was a convulsing tribal march, performed on a disco chessboard with squares that darkened and lit up in sequence as the dancers moved over them. The choreography, set and costume design were all designed by Itzik Galili, and it stunned me entirely. The piece started with dancers standing upright, facing forward, with spotlights focused on reflective disks that they wore about their necks. Like circular mirrors of light, like heavy halos fallen onto their shoulders, like disks of light seperating the head from the rest of the body. Disks were then lost to the wings, and the dance itself kicked in, with running drumbeats layering their rhythms as the music. The barefoot dancers attacked the air with flat feet to the ground, bent knees, open posture and shouts of triumph. They all (men and women) wore tight shorts of a bright colour, like the bright colours of the light up floor, and a see-through black top that had a dash of the colour of their shorts emblazoned across it like a simple coat of arms. The tops were high at the front and dipped almost down to the waist at the back, revealing the back back of each dancer. When some of the male dancers came back on stage from a moment in the wings, at times they had turned these tops around, so that the front of the torso was now revealed. These tops are a brilliant example of Rambert’s beautiful simplicity: The tops seemed just simple tops, in light fabric with no obvious harsh tailoring or excessive adornment, and yet their design evoked ideas of tribal attire, disco style and modern fashion. Like a war of the ages. The tops did not cling to the dancer’s bodies, but flew about them and moved over their bodies, unlike the strict regimental appearance of traditional dancewear. ‘A Linha Curva’ is stunning. Check out a little of it http://www.rambert.org.uk/interactive/a_linha_curva

I am a Rambert convert. Along with the beautiful simplicity, another particular aspect of the company’s dance style pleased me greatly. In the vast majority of tradition dance, the man is strong, the support, the lifter, while the woman is the pretty little thing that spins in his hands. Rambert, however, in all three pieces but most notably in ‘A Linha Curva,’ reject that tradition. There seems little seperation in regards to the moves each genre performs. Everyone lifts and everone is lifted. Which results in a wonderful balance that is perhaps a part of the complex structure that goes into producing such beauty that seems so simple. And with such a balance, it seemed to me to be a true celebration of the human body and of life. Rambert should be better well-known than it is.

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