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Pond Way, Gran Partita, Anatomica #3
Rambert at Sadler's Wells
23 May 2007

Rambert Dance Company presented three strongly contrasted modern dance works, each absorbing in its own way. Of particular interest to Musical Pointers is Rambert's commitment to live music, usually with its resident orchestra, Paul Hoskins' London Musici, which accompanies their tours. (We have reviewed them from time to time in concert (Ustvolskaya London premiere) and on CD (e.g. Malcolm Arnold) and also noted that through the huge audiences for Rambert, more people will have heard Scelsi's music than in all the concert performances over the years!).

Rambert's versatile young dancers showed off their consumate artistry immediately with Merce Cunningham's Pond Way. This piece caught the very essence of everchanging life of and on water. Fleeting and unpredictable movements evolved and dissolved instantaneously. Suzanne Gallo seemed to wave a magic wand with her shimmering, floating and rippling white gossamer costumes, which in turn revealed and concealed the dancers arms and legs as they floated across the stage like water-sprites. Subtle lighting by David Covey  gave fleeting hints  of yellow dawns and rose-coloured  sunsets and Brian Eno's music wonderfully underscored this most hypnotic work.

Gran Partita choreographed by Karole Armitage and set to the rich sonority of Mozart's marvellous score for 13 wind instruments + a double bass (given with refined perfection and sounding magnificent at Sadler's Wells) divided the audience and critics, who found it insufficiently innovative. To one of us it seemed rather elegantly banal by contrast with Pond Way and failed to lift this work out of familiar territory. (Her companion thoroughly enjoyed it!)

Anatomica#3 was a veritable tour de force, conceptually, physically and artistically. The audience had intimations  of something unusual about to happen when a Queen Elizabeth II-like character, dressed in pink (with one of those ghastly hats perched on her head) silently surveyed the audience returning to their seats. This prim gentility from another world turned hilarious when this Queen becomes cloned by the men and women of Rambert into 18 cardbox-like figures, performing dainty little meaningless steps across the stage. Eventually they coalesce back into one character, who promptly jumps off the tall ramp at the top of a seemingly disintegrating ruins (actually soft mats to ensure bones don't get broken). End of monarchy you might think?

The dancers are then brazenly and unexpectedly turfed into fast, rough and tough urban action, (and us too). Bodies hurl themselves around and on and off this crumbling mound at breakneckk speed, pausing in self-absorbed body contemplation only to return to frenzied, crazed athleticism.  To conclude, the 'Queen' improbably returns into the midst of this mayhem and - wonder of wonders - has in the meantime learnt to sommersault and gives us no mean a display of this new skill. Survival of the old ways, the monarchy is set to live for another day...

Andre Gingras' inventive choreography was supported by Fabrice Serafina's brilliant set and costumes. Joseph Hyde's noisy, percussive sound world, contrived from scrap-metal instruments and electronic sampler, was very much to the taste of the young audience. A totally spell-binding work to bring a great evening to a close, combining humour, athleticism and skill with thought.

Alexa Woolf

Cover illustration is of Anatomica#3 and you can also see video clips of it.