Benoit Swan Pouffer, Rambert’s artistic director since 2018, has undoubtedly brought a fresh look to the company with new recruits starting contracts as recently as this year and a repertoire that is as diverse as it is challenging. The first two offerings on this triple bill were very much of the moment, the last, not so much.
Photos © Camilla Greenwell
Eye Candy, by siblings Imre van Opstal and Marne van Opstal, was premiered last year and shown only digitally. Now it’s on stage and if not to everyone’s taste, it makes an enormous impact due to the sheer physical exertion and unrelenting pace. It depicts today’s obsession with finding the perfect body. The cast of 8 look naked from the waist up but are in fact wearing silicone breasts and six packs (designed by the choreographers). I confess to scrutinising the bodies at first and was marginally uncomfortable. Very quickly, the scrutiny turned into absolute admiration and intrigue at the way those living, breathing dancers managed to transform themselves into very convincing robots. Movements were clipped, mechanical and jerky, any hint of fluidity had been extrapolated without any visible residue. From the opening moments when the slightest motion was almost imperceptible to the rapid building of uncompromising and transfixing passages of high speed choreography, when the entire cast shook or manoeuvred in unison, it was enthralling. There were even moments infused with humour as when two men appear to discover their bodies for the first time, open-mouthed and emitting expletives. Music by Amos Ben-Tal was fitting and lighting by Fabiana Piccioli, highly effective. Whilst the choreographers were possibly influenced by Sharon Eyal, this was still very much their own and it will be interesting to see how they develop. Outstanding among an already stellar cast was Aishwarya Raut.
Ben Duke’s unforgettable Goat, which he created in 2017 for Rambert, remains one of the most enjoyable ventures in the company repertoire. It looks like he’s done it again with Cerberus. It leans heavily towards dance theatre rather than pure dance but it gives the cast a golden opportunity to display the versatility of their multiple talents. The title refers to the dog that guards the gates to the underworld in Greek mythology and is a modern day retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s clever, it’s funny and engaging. It’s also happening in the moment, so the Sadler’s Wells stage is the setting for the funeral of Aishwarya Raut who has exited the stage and entered the underworld, while Alex Soulliere and Antonello Sangiradi find themselves reading and translating the eulogy. There are flashes of brilliant choreography as the story unfolds and the two men go to great lengths to stop the rest of the cast from following Raut. It becomes clear that Sangiradi is going to have to brave the journey into the treacherous underworld to bring his friend back, complete with rope around his waist. The dialogue was highly amusing, the delivery, excellent and the dancing superlative. A special mention for Musa Motha, guesting with the company. As an amputee, he has learned to use his crutches as a second leg – his dancing and his stage presence are astonishing.
The final piece, Alonzo King’s Following the Subtle Current Upstream was created for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2000. It was exciting to see his work staged in the UK and while the programme notes clearly state that the piece is about how to return to joy, perhaps true ‘joy’ is a little ambitious. It’s very beautiful to look at and challenges dance technique in a significantly more classical vein but whatever the sentiments it set out to express, it felt a little muted. However, as a showcase for Rambert dancers – they wowed. In a series of duets and solos, then fuller ensemble sections, Dylan Tedaldi looked magnificent in his sweeping, expansive movements and in contrast, Jonathan Wade was electrifying whenever he stepped on stage. One also couldn’t help but notice Comfort Kondehson wherever she was. Recently joining from Rambert2, she is definitely one to watch. If it feels like Rambert is heading in a new direction, it’s looking pretty promising from where I’m sitting.