The Rambert Dance Company - Celebrating 75 years

Darlings! I saw the celebrations of 75 years of the British Dance Company - The Rambert Dance Company. There are incredible - really superb!

The company acquired its name from its founder Marie Rambert (the Royal Ballet with its grandeur was founded by Dame Ninette de Valois) but the Rambert Dance Company (in this case more grit than grandeur) was founded by Dame Marie Rambert; the latter's finances always precarious. They made their debut on 15 June 1926 as Ballet Rambert, as the company was originally called until 1987. They achieved their fame at the Mercury Theatre in Notting Hill Gate. They were also known as Rambert Ballet Club, which was the cradle of many English choreographers.

Dame Marie was born in Poland and died in 1982. Her passion for dance started when she saw Isadora Duncan dancing. Later she was sent as an expert in eurhythmics to advise Russian dancers to disentangle the complex rhythms of Stravinsky. From 1923 they were members of Diaghilev's company. She opened her school in London in 1920, six years before de Valois opened the Academy of Choreographic Art that became the Royal Ballet School. Marie's most famous pupil was Fredrick Ashton (born 1904); the first ballet he choreographed was A Tragedy of Fashion. He collaborated with Sophie Fedorovitch for this production and Marie danced a role in the ballet. Marie's contribution and dedication to her company was huge; she was a dance teacher. Ashton eventually left Rambert for de Valois' Sadler's Wells company (later called the Royal Ballet).

Another of her well-known pupils is Anthony Tudor who left Rambert in 1937 and moved to America to become a part of the American Ballet Theatre, where he became the company's resident choreographer in 1939. Also from her school came choreographers Andrew Howard, Walter Gore, and Norman Morrice, as well as the dancers John Gilpin and Dame Peggy van Praagh (who later became the Director of Sadler's Wells and Australian Ballets).

Around this time, Marie went to live in Paris where she was greatly influenced by Diaghilev. She had great success with her company in 1946-48, as they toured throughout Australia and New Zealand. In 1957 the Rambert Ballet toured Mao's China. With the Swinging Sixties the ballet needed to make some changes, which she encouraged the company to update itself with modern themes and styles - with this new look/change came the work entitled Pierrot Lunaire. Performed to the discordant score by Schoenberg. It was a distinctive welding of classical and modern dance techniques that had been seen in 1967 (it is now a part of the Anniversary Season). The first to play the title role of Pierrot was Christopher Bruce. Today he is the Artist Director of the company and has been since 1994.

Celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the company included the Queen's visit to Chiswick (where the company is based) in May 2001 followed by a visit to the Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio.

The Theatre Museum in Covent Garden is hosting an exhibition illustrating Rambert's impressive history through artefacts, designs, and photographs. The National Film Theatre is presenting a series of films throughout May with the Company's history and ballets. In June, at Sadler's Wells, the 75th anniversary was celebrated with the "75" logo (styled very much as a dancer) was projected on the inside walls close to the stage. They removed most of the seats in the front of the stalls and sold tickets for ?5. People stood just like they do at the Proms (they have a great following of young people like myself!!! )It was a great dance bargain for that price! They opened with two company premiers. The first consisted of three ballets:

Cheese was inspired by the nightclubs of Jeremy James & Company's piece called Subculture; it was more physics than dance. Jeremy James was a former dancer of the Rambert Company, but he is now deceased.

Symphony of Psalms was choreographed by Juri Kylian, music by Stravinsky. It was choreographed for 16 dancers and premiered by Netherlands Dance Theatre in 1978. A hanging wall of Persian rugs and prayer chairs backed the set. The music was a dramatic choral work that was influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church. The dancers moved in a geometric formation as an anonymous group sans pointe shoes.

The last piece Rooster, choreographed by Christopher Bruce, had music by the Rolling Stones. I really loved it! ! It was a premier by the Ballet de Grande Theatre de Geneve in 1991. It was really exhilarating, with both courtly and cock-of-a-walk dancers in velvet jackets and roulette-wheel skirts - very sexual.

The second program was equally fantastic. It began with Unrest, choreographed by Richard Alston, music by Arco Part (with a world premier at Sadler's Wells on 20 June 2001) for violin and piano. The ballet involved 6 dancers with elegant movements and simple dress.

Sounding with choreography by Siobhan Davies had music by Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88). In this piece used here is Okanagon and Scelsi combines harp, double bass and tam-tam (a large gong to evoke mystery in music of ritual and resonance). The Ballet Rambert at Nottingham Playhouse premiered the piece in 1989. Next came Pierrot Lunaire, choreographed by Glen Tetley on 26 January 1967. Pierrot Lunaire is a dreamer, a poet and a human clown - the conflict between real and ideal. The trio here - Pierrot, Columbine and Brighella - are all from the Commedia dell'arte. Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire was written in 1921. The first 21 brief poems were originally in French by Albert Giraud, then translated into German by Otto Harteben. The words are recited in "Sprechgesang", a way of vocalising, not a natural speech, not singing, but a new technique invented for Pierrot. Linda Herst sang the Schoenberg song cycle most admirably. It was this work that in the '60's started the Rambert Company's conversation with the Modern Dance Company.

The closing piece was Detritus, choreographed by Wayne McGregor, music by Scanner and premier at Sadler's Wells on 20 June 2001. Staged in the dark it features 13 dancers and a suspended kinetic limb with electronics by Scanner. There was a whispering voice-over making a big noise and 13 red-dressed dancers wrapping themselves in a crossover between contemporary and classical forms. There were also 4 women on pointe that forced the men into a complex partnering. Although this is a celebration on 75 years, for the 50th anniversary of Ballet Rambert, Christopher Bruce produced a charming tribute to Dame Marie Rambert with his Girl in a Straw Hat, which was inspired by an early photo of the young Rambert as a schoolgirl in Warsaw wearing that hat that gives the title to the ballet. In November, the Ballet Rambert returned to the Wells. The first programme featured Twin Suite 2, choreographed by Kinson Productions, music by Aphex Twin; Hurricane, choreographed by Christopher Bruce; Ground Level Overlay, choreographed by Merce Cunningham, music by Stewart Dempster (the ballet was premiered by Merce Cunningham Dance Company in NY in 1995 and first performed by the Rambert Company on 13 November 2001). Ground Level Overlay was dedicated to John Cage's memory. This is the third Cunningham piece to come to the Rambert Company since the company formed an association with him (he is now in his eighties). With August Pace and Beach Birds, Overlay is an outstanding acquisition; it was created using the Life Form computer program - Cunningham's favourite toy. The latter score for Ground Level Overlay combines music for 10 trombones, recorded in a two million-gallon empty underground water tank in Washington State. It features live material played by London Musici, Rambert's fine in-house orchestra. The pace of the choreography was often inhumanly slow with 15 dancers dressed in black velvet and satin. Their movements were unpredictable at times, as if they were puppets being manipulated by an invisible puppet-master.

And finally, from the first programme, The Celebrated Soubrette, choreographed by Javier De Frutos, music by Michael Daugherty. The Rambert Dance Company premiered it at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre on 1 November 2000. Javier De Frutos is famous for his outrageous nude solos. This piece is set behind the scenes of a glamorous show. The dancers wore black spangle costumes that sparkled like the night sky. The dances were slinky and sexy - 12 dancers in the glitz and kitsch of Las Vegas' show-life and Liberace.

The second programme started with Land, choreographed by Christopher Bruce, music by Anne Nordheim inspired by Warsaw and traditional Polish folksong. It premiered in 1985 in London; it is a revival piece with fragments of folk dancing and lovemaking. This was followed by Gaps, Lapse, and Relapse, choreographed by Jeremy James with music by Peter Morris. The music was inspired by dance music, street and club culture. The final work was Grinning Your Face, choreographed by Christopher Bruce, music by Martin Simpson. It was premiered by the Rambert Company at the Lowry, Salford on 26 September 2001. The men were wearing work clothes and the women were wearing limp cotton dresses (inspired by America's Mid-West) while lounging on dusty crates. This magnificent company of dancers gives me a huge stirring of delight. I left in ecstasy.


Verinha Ottoni.


Copyrights @ Verinha Ottoni. All rights reserved