The Norwich Theatre Royal stage brings us a wide variety of dance, drama and music throughout the year but for me a visit from the Rambert dance company will always be a highlight. The company has origins over a century old, and for many is associated with the highest standards of classical ballet, but now the company are at the leading edge of contemporary dance and are about as far from traditional ballet as possible within the world of dance.
Rambert attract the best of dance and choreography from every corner of the world to create their repertoire of extraordinary performances. Their work is never dull, routine or disappointing in any way, rather they continue to delight and surprise and innovate, turning the wordless world of dance into the most eloquent and emotional communication with audiences on any stage.
They brought three works to Norwich having arrived apparently from Brisbane, Australia only hours before. Not a hint of any weariness or jet lag showed in these three high energy performances. The first, PreSentient, was originally devised by Wayne McGregor in 2002 but is still startlingly fresh and complex. Set to ‘Triple Quartet’ by leading American composer Steve Reich the dance reflects the urgent and airless intensity of the music with movement that is disturbing yet amazingly fluid and co-operative. The tension it creates makes it a good start to the programme for the evening, while hinting at the thrills yet to come.
The second dance, Rouge, is a new work first danced at Sadlers Wells in May from choreographer Marion Motin who is new to the company but clearly fits perfectly the Rambert ethos. A stage swirling in dry ice, with dramatic and intense lighting, sees seven dancers rise and fall from the swirling fog of the ice, as an on-stage guitarist (Rubén Martinez) riffs a rock anthem soundtrack. The dance space is defined by two lines of brilliant light, changing in colour but mostly red, one behind the dancers and one across the whole stage. The dancers rise and fall while relating their movements to the guitarist to the point where you wonder if he will join the dance, as each reveal the different character of their real selves. A thrilling engaging work with an overdose for all the senses, this superb work means that I will watch out for anything that Marion Motin works on in the future.
The third work is a longer established piece from Hofesh Shechter entitled In Your Rooms. Another busy dance with twelve on stage and complex interrelationships between the dancers. A commentator sounding a bit like Woody Allen poses existential questions as the dancers kick out at invisible restraints in episodic bursts of movement. In contrast to Rouge the lighting is often gloomy and minimal, adding again to the tension and drama of the work.
While each of these dances challenges our senses and sensibilities in many ways the programme overall is hugely uplifting and enjoyable, with boundaries pushed to allow new ways for dancers to convey their emotions and stories to us. Rambert is all about empowering their dancers. Many people who I talk to find dance difficult to analyse or contextualise. Set aside your worries and see Rambert and just enjoy the experience. I am mystified that their shows do not all sell out immediately – if I had an unlimited theatre budget I would happily return again and again to find ever more depth and texture in these complex works.
Find out more about this Rambert tour here: https://www.rambert.org.uk/mixed-bills/mcgregor-motin-shechter/