Rambert Dance Company

"Visions Fugitives", "Ghost Dances",
(illustrated right)

by Franz Anton Cramer

July, 2003 -- State Opera House, Berlin


Believe it or not, the Rambert Dance Company has not performed in Berlin, for the last 17 years. So excitement was soaring when an exclusive five-performance guest appearance of Britain’s most famous modern dance company was announced to take place at the now vacant State Opera House located at the central Unter den Linden boulevard. Expectations were all the more stirred up as Berlin’s dancescape in the last 10 years has suffered largely of financial cutbacks, dramatic mismanagement and political ignorance so that contemporary ballet has not been seen here since long.

Anyway, few companies in Germany, which boasts quite a rich theatre and dance infrastructure, are comparable in stylistic scope and achieved artistry to Rambert’s fantastic dancers. Hans van Manen’s playful sketches in “Vision Fugitives” were a teaser for the almost sold out 1,200 auditorium, and a Dark Angel seemed to pass when in the last dramatic scene all playfulness turns out to be but a prelude to death.  It was amazing to feel the mood change towards tragedy in an instant.  Christopher Bruce’s 1981 “Ghost Dances” met with a certain estrangement for their rather pastiche ethnicizing looks, but their perfect rendering finally convinced the public.

The real sensation of Rambert’s guest appearance, however, was Wayne McGregor’s “PreSentient”. Excepting William Forsythe’s dancers, acquainted with an equally frantic, if more intellectual style, there is probably only one troupe in Germany that could manage McGregor’s virtuoso disarticulations. The Stuttgart ballet is the most versatile ballet ensemble in Germany, and they have premiered a Wayne McGregor piece recently (which unfortunately I haven’t had the chance to see yet). This radically and in the deepest sense of the word contemporary aesthetic is what the Berlin public really wanted to see. After the last pirouette and the last geometrical shape had faded into dark, amazement turned to sheer enthusiasm.

There is a lot of discussion currently in Berlin how to secure contemporary dance practice (next to Vladimir Malakhov’s Petipaësque ballet repertoire; Malakhov is director of Berlin’s major classical troupe of 64 members at the State Opera House). One of the suggestions is to invite outstanding contemporary companies to Berlin rather than build and maintain an autonomous (and probably underfinanced) contemporary company. With their Berlin appearance, Rambert have doubtlessly given a new appeal to this idea and authorities here should definitely consider whether a steady collaboration with Rambert Dance could not make up for the deficit Berlin’s dance lovers have faced in the last years.

Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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