Eight hundred young dancers from around the world applied to join Rambert2, the new sister company of the long-established Rambert. Tonight, we meet the chosen 13, dancing three works alongside one performed by the main company.
The dancers are as impressive as you would imagine, with technical chops and a measure of attitude. It’s not an identikit troupe but a collection of individuals, who throw themselves into tonight’s premiere, Grey Matter, by Benoit Swan Pouffer. The work has echoes of Hofesh Shechter and the violent chest-popping accents of krump, strongest when the morphing mass is hooked into the quaking beat of futuristic rapper Gaika’s score.
Rambert proper perform Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, in its last run before being retired from the rep. The 1981 work – a tribute to the disappeared of Pinochet’s Chile – seems like an odd programme choice, quaint by comparison, with its painted backdrop, melodic score and theatricality, but compellingly crafted choreography doesn’t date and neither does divine dancing.
It’s a fascinating counterpoint to the more recent works. Where Bruce was drawing on classical dance, the new work looks to street, commercial and clubbing. The dark subject matter of Ghost Dances is treated gently, whereas the more nebulous 21st-century works – which also include Rafael Bonachela’s 2004 duet E2 7SD – are performed on gloomy stages, with unnerving soundscapes, distorted bodies and dystopian aggression. What does this say about us now?
In Killer Pig, by Sharon Eyal with Gai Behar, this aggression and the sheer volume at its climax becomes stressful. But that brazen intensity is part of its power and it’s the standout work. Part club, part catwalk, there’s spikiness and sass. Eyal’s choreography accentuates bodies at shoulders, elbows and hips, somewhere on the spectrum between Egon Schiele and RuPaul. She’s not afraid of repetition, riffing on one idea rather than the erratic stream of consciousness so common in contemporary dance. It means her audience can get into her groove before she swallows them into either some kind of drug nightmare or the best night ever, depending on your point of view.
It’s exactly the kind of work a young company like Rambert2 should be doing: edgy, cool, challenging, excellent.