Rambert’s young company, Rambert2 is made up of “the world’s most exhilarating early career young dancers” who spend just one year honing their craft as part of the R2 ensemble, a springboard that must surely launch them into the international dance stratosphere if this latest show is anything to go by.
The first piece, Terms & Conditions, is choreographed by Jermaine Marcus Spivey and performed by three male and three female dancers dressed in budget sci-fi white boiler suits with mirrored circles on their backs – Star Trek falls to earth and meets Brave New World.
A game leader barks out impossible rules through a microphone, and two players try to interpret orders, one with voice, the other movement. The mirrors are removed and placed over faces like masks, everyone reflecting but not seeing: shades of VR, Devo and Daft Punk. Now the music has heated up, angry and frenetic, with the dancers moving as units. One by one they drop their masks and assume the position of the prone, like children trying on death for size.
The second piece, Sin, is a duet by Damien Jalet and internationally-acclaimed Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, whose work ignited Alan Platel’s Ghent-based company Les Ballets C de la B in the noughties. Cherkaoui’s own company Eastman makes work in collaboration with Royal Ballet of Flanders and he is an associate at Sadlers Wells.
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A male figure, bare-chested and bathed in amber light, makes fluid gestures of gentleness and self-violence by turn, BSL-like, to a hypnotic soundtrack of Indian devotional music. The hands of another start to weave over him, a lascivious woman who appears suddenly as if out of his psyche, and hangs on him.
They cavort and roll, entwined, two frenzied impassioned lovers in a Caravaggio tableau, tearing, lustful, seizing. The tumbling rhythmic passages at floor level show an exquisite skill and generate a strange momentum. She strikes him and he is now limp. She tries to revive his beautiful, fluid corpse over and over again, and as she subsumes him he vanishes, and she takes his place in stillness, stage centre. The effect is both intoxicating and disquieting, like having watched a living dream or nightmare unfold.
The final set, Sama (pictured top) is by Andrea Miller, a dark and decadent piece of incredible complexity and intensity. The theatre is misted with dry ice. Again, an Indian theme opens, men surmounted by women in varying extreme postures are paraded grotesquely as in a pagan pageant painted by Goya.
The music morphs into a Tom Waits-like theme, dense and totemic, and half-naked men and women in red fling themselves about with incredible energy in a bonfire of celebration. It feels like the end of the world – so what to do but enjoy it?
Floor-lights at the rear of the stage create the illusion that the dancers are floating. They take centre stage one by one to give personal expression to some impossible physical skills. Some stride round on stilts, like pumped-up mythical satyrs.
The piece climaxes in an almighty crescendo, with bodies everywhere generating extraordinary excitement, and then ends. There is a gentle epilogue as a stilted women mimes to a Fado song, bringing the audience in to land.
This show is a rousing spectacle of passion and intensity delivered with a total commitment by a troupe of the most remarkable young dancers. As the audience exits the auditorium you can hear them muttering “WTF… what just? … unbelievable…”, while some just stare at each other or lean again a wall quietly in overwhelm.
A glass of wine later, we bump into a handful of the young dancers outside – all different nationalities – having a fag. They look like quite normal children. How old are you, we ask. 19, 20, 21, 22, they say. What, you’re not old enough to dance like that, how do you do it. It’s the endorphins, says one, they’re like crack.
Do you feel good all the time? No, he says, just most of the time. I resolve to cancel my gym membership, dance to very loud music and smoke more, if this is the upshot.
Rambert2 performed at Bristol Old Vic from Feb 11-13. For more on Rambert2, visit www.rambert.org.uk/about-us/people/rambert2
For upcoming dance shows in Bristol, visit www.bristol247.com/whats-on/dance
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