Rambert Dance Company

'Six Pack', 'Living Toys', 'PreSentient', 'Elsa Canasta'

by Cassandra

November, 2003 -- Sadler's Wells, London

image of "Elsa Canasta" by Hugo Glendinning


Both halves of the Rambert Dance Company’s new programme at Sadler's Wells open with a solo with the same title, choreographer, and composer. “Six Pack”, by Glenn Wilkinson, is first danced by Thomasin Gülgeç, in a tee shirt and bondage trousers, to a score mainly consisting of drumming. The second solo is danced by Conor O’Brien, also wearing a tee shirt and bondage trousers, but dancing to a score of heavy bass effects. Although both dance energetically, neither gentleman shows us his six-pack.

Karole Armitage’s new work, “Living Toys”, is rather handicapped by a cacophonous score by Thomas Adès. The dancers wear costumes that give them the appearance of articulated dolls, but although the movement becomes rather stylized in places, these are clearly not cute Coppelia-type toys, but slightly de-humanized beings touching on differing emotions in a series of ensembles and duos.

Wayne McGregor has chosen a high-powered score by Steve Reich for his ballet “PreSentient”, which he describes in the programme as “relentless”. “Relentless” is the right adjective for his choreography in this work, as the dancers perform with a driven quality and a speed that left me almost breathless. McGregor’s style is always rewarding with its pace and seemingly endless flow of inventive movement, but above all it shows off the dancers to the very best advantage. They all looked fantastic and if it was hard work for them to perform, at least they had the satisfaction of knowing they have seldom looked better.

The final work of the evening was the oddly titled “Elsa Canasta” by Javier De Frutos. The Cole Porter music has in some ways dictated the look of this ballet and we get that ‘30s cliché of the sweeping stairway down which a be-gowned singer is guaranteed to appear. We start off with two young men enjoying a gay encounter on the lower steps and move on to a group of girls using the stair rail as a barre, in movements that at times recalled Harold Lander’s “Etudes”. Ballet parodies were clearly a fun idea for De Frutos, who also gave us a couple of quotations from Balanchine’s “Apollo”. The dancers dance up the stairs, down the stairs, and in front of the stairs. Some of the girls jump off the stairs to be caught in some truly spectacular lifts, adding to the sense of fun and excitement. When a couple turns unpleasant in one duet, their aggression quickly dissolves into comedy so that the mood of pleasure remains constant. It is all very uplifting and more than a little sexy, with some of the girls being given the opportunity to get their hands on Paul Liburd’s, er, more interesting bits – who says it’s a hard life being a dancer!?

The lady doing the singing was Melanie Marshall and she was simply perfection. This great evening with some great dancing sent me home on a miserable drizzly night with a smile on my face.

Edited by Jenai

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