Theatre: Ballet Rambert’s 2019 Season

One South London company is currently taking the London arts scene by storm.

Ballet Rambert may be 100 years old, but from its base in SE1 it is launching a revolution, writes Christopher Walker.

A new artistic director, and new works, make this season a sometimes shocking breath of fresh air, but one we should all support.

It’s 100 years since Marie Rambert fled war-torn Europe and sought refuge in the capital.

Having assisted Diaghilev choreograph Nijinsky in The Rite of Spring she knew a thing or two about dance. And about revolution.

When Diaghilev’s company disbanded, a group of the dancers led by Marie began Ballet Rambert.

I am sure Marie would welcome its latest, iconoclastic, season.

ROUGE by Motin, Credit: Johan Persson

The newly appointed, and wonderfully named, Benoit Swan Pouffer used to lead the Cedar Lake dance company of New York.

This is his first London season and, judging by his first new commission – Rouge, by Marion Motin – it is going to be a great one.

Pouffer’s choice of Marion Motin is deliberate.

Reaching out from beyond the established modern dance scene, into the contemporary music world of hip-hop.

Having tried and failed at ballet in her native France, Motin soon discovered hip-hop, and she never looked back.

She simply took to the local shopping malls and danced, danced, danced.

Motin then cut her teeth as a backing dancer on Madonna’s 2012 MDNA tour, but is best known for her choreography for the likes of Christine and the Queens’ hit track Girlfriend, and Dua Lipa’s hit single One Kiss, which topped the charts last year.

Motin’s work, Rouge, had its world premiere in London this summer, sandwiched between two established choreographers’ pieces (Wayne McGregor and Hofesh Shechter).

Motin confessed to being worried about this billing, but she was wrong. It is her piece that is fresh, and somehow connected.

Using Micka Luna’s score, to say that it is electric is to understate the effect it has on mind and body.

The work begins with the dancers, fully clothed, lost in the fog of life on stage, accompanied by a rock guitarist stage right.

Shrouded in smoke, and wearing a concealing hat, he is reminiscent of Wagner’s ‘Wanderer’ in the Ring cycle.

He strums out the chords which seem to sum up the disjointed lives of the dancers on stage, who one by one fall down, and then rise again.

It is only when they shed their clothes that they finally seem to be liberated.

It is at this stage that the truly fabulous Daniel Davidson emerges as the lead character. He is a sinister, haunting, Pied Piper with rouged lips.

His own, transgendered costume seems to be an allusion to the famous Horst photograph of the Mainbocher corset, while his creepy movements sparked memories of surrealist horror movies.

As Davidson leads the other dancers through their moves, I started to wonder whether Motin was intending some comment on the fashion industry, and the extent to which we all become slaves to fashion.

The dancing is universally outstanding. Apart from Davidson there are strong performances from Juan Gil and Liam Francis.

All in all, it is very exciting to think what may yet be to come from this wonderful South London company. And this refreshing new approach will reach out to a new and younger audience.

Ballet Rambert’s 2019 Season plays at various venues across the UK and Saddler’s Wells in London.
0208 630 0600

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