Thursday 4 June 2009

Ballet Rambert (Dance Review)

One of the aspects of dance that appeals to me the most is the opportunity it gives its practitioners to transform themselves into any object or person they want to be by merely using their bodies. Whilst this is also true of theatre on certain occasions, it is in dance and its emphasis on physical expression sans mots where one can best appreciate the body as a talking tool.

And Ballet Rambert is to me an apposite example.

Unlike my previous post about the famous troupe where I felt that the performance by Britain's 'premier contemporary dance company' (according to the programme notes) was under par, the matinee I attended with my wife and our two children a couple of weeks ago had everything you wanted from a dance spectacle, and still a bit more.

'Hush', the opening choregraphy of a two-piece programe, focused on a family of six: mum, dad and their four children during their night routine. The title hails from a famous lullaby that was included in a collaborative record by Bobby Mc Ferrin and the Japanese cellist Yo-yo Ma. The choreographer, Christopher Bruce, who was in charge of Ballet Rambert for eight years, sought inspiration for this piece on the album sleeve notes: 'Hush is a musical celebration of life - from youth to old age. While in so many ways this album speaks to children, it is equally true that perhaps its central goal, to use Bobby's (McFerrin) phrase is "to release the child in the adult"'. And it was this philosohy that underpinned the choreography. From the parents' struggle to juggle their responsibilities with their own 'me/us-time', to the children's nocturnal activies, this was a soul-warming piece. My favourite moment was the duet (at first, then turned into a trio) performed by the two brothers who were intent on catching a fly that had mysteriously sneaked into their bedroom. Bobby and Yo-Yo's infectious take on 'The Flight of the Bumblebee', had the audience enraptured whilst the skills and dexterity displayed by the two dancers on stage had us all on the edge of our seats, sweating profusely in admiration. After the two brothers chase the minuscule intruder for a long time they eventually give up, only for their younger sister to steal from behind them, jump up and bang! swallow the fly up in one gulp. Magical stuff indeed.

If 'Hush' rang true with many a parent in the audience (during the interval we all exchanged that kind of look that shouts out more than we can ever express with words) then the frantic razzmatazz that was 'A Linha Curva' (A Curved Line) was a welcome sight for those, like me, for whom sometimes dance is just about the pleasure of moving one's body until the last drop of sweat has been extracted. Twenty-eight dancers (including mum, dad and children from the first piece) filled up the stage at Sadlers Wells to give a fantastic demonstration of what happens when an Israeli choreographer travels to Brazil, comes back to work with a UK-based company and employs a Dutch quartet to play percussion. And if that is also a reflection of the multicultural city in which I live, I'm sure it was unintended, but I cannot have been the only member in the sell-out crowd who felt proud to live in such a wonderful city like London.

Twenty-eight rippling torsos, fifty-six muscled legs, twenty-eight rotating pelvises and twenty-eight mini-micro, little, lychra unisex pants in an assortment of bright colours with black gauzy tops. That was 'A Linha Curva'. It was the closest you could get to a version of the Rio carnival in the month of May bang in the middle of London. Shaking, stomping, jumping, swirling, pirouetting. This piece had it all. What was the 'message' behind it? None. Correction, there was a message. Dance is life, and life is to be lived, so, let's live our life, together and in full view, preferable whilst wearing hotpants. If 'Hush' left parents in the foyer winking at each other metaphorically, 'A Linha Curva' had us all line-dancing in our heads long after the curtains had come down.

I will leave you with two clips. The first one is the aforementioned piece, 'A Linha Curva'. The second one is Bobby McFerrin and Yo-Yo Ma singing 'Hush'. I could not find a good clip of the actual choreography but I'm sure the music will still leave you in the same high spirits as the dance piece left me. Many thanks. Enjoy.

Next post: 'Song for a Summer Sunday Morning' to be published on Sunday 7th June at 10am (GMT)

Copyright 2009


  1. Glad to see Rambert are back on top form...they have always been a bit hit and miss over the years...are Phoenix still around..that was a dance group I also really enjoyed seeing...Greetings to my home town from mexico...

  2. i love it when musicians smile like that while playing - enjoying the music that comes out!

    as for the dancing, some of my favorite moments are when dance groups merge through dance into an expressive tool or being - what you were saying about individual dancers. it is quite mesmerizing to see groups do that - like this one


  3. Many thanks for your comments.

    Catherine, I was mightily impressed by Rambert the first time I saw them but I do agree with you that some of their other stuff is abit too pretentious for my liking. I have seen Phoenix a few times and yes, they are still around.

    Manuela, that clip by Bobby and Yo-yo brought a wide smile to my face when I first saw it on youtube a couple of weeks ago. I had forgotten how good Bobby is and really I should buy more of his music. I've got this CD in my wishlist, though.

    Greetings from London.

  4. Wow. What eloquence of movement! The piece really does feel like carnaval. I like the joy reflected with each motion. As for Bobby, I think YoYo Ma is generally acknowledged as gifted because he's a classical musician and people forget Bobby's genius because he dabbles in pop. He's exxtrmemly gifted and his father was the first black tenor at the Metropolitan Opera, so he has classical knowledge that people don't realize. As for our synchronicity, of course! My husband is Ogun and I am Oshun and we have 2 kids as well.

  5. Well, actually, my ex -husband is a Trinidadian who always brings out warrior like tendencies in my scorpio so I guess in a way, that is what happened. Never thought of it that way though.

  6. I'm familiar with the McFerrin/ Yo Yo Ma collaberation..looking for the inner child!! It is always amazing to me who gets together to produce great art...what I love about dance is that every cell is engaged!
    What a time you must have had..

  7. Mc Ferrim, mitico!!!!!!!

    Grazie per questo video cuban, lho guardato con molto piacere.

    Un saluto,
    Salva :)

  8. Cuban: very nice description! Entonces no eres un balarin de la calle ? Conoces mucho mas de lo q pensaba!

  9. Fly Girl, that's quite a lot on your plate :-).

    Lyn, I have lost count of how many times I've seen that clip now.

    Salva, es un placer tenerte por aqui.

    Francesca, no le hagas esa pregunta a un cubano de Cayo Hueso. Soy bailador Y bailarin :-)!

    Greetings from London.

  10. That Yo Yo Ma/Bobby clip makes me smile as big as they do Cuban!! Fantastic.
    Have a weekend filled with love, joy and laughter and........

    Steady On
    Reggie Girl

  11. This is my turn to say you have produced a name which sent me back in time, CiL. When I hear the name Bobby McFerrin, rightly or wrongly I simply associate him with the 1980s. It was enjoyable to watch your video of Bobby and his "accomplices" performing. He is a true entertainer.

    Now, to the dance. Never in my life have I seen a live ballet or modern dance performance. I have, of course, seen events on television and marvel at the athletic skill and stamina required.

    In this particular instance, the remarkable lighting techniques gave the performance a mystical quality and a somewhat magical feel. This is a reminder that I am cheating myself by altogether neglecting one of the major performing arts. Good show, man. I think you are fortunate to have seen this on stage.

  12. Believing in the others around us is one of the most important things we can do.

    Religion can be good in some cases, but people should live with both sides of their brain working.

  13. my gosh! Cuban,

    exciting, beautiful, exhilarating . . .

    just lovely, this is enough to make a fan out of anyone,
    you are quite the reviewer,
    we were quite ready to watch the clip,
    and were certainly were not disappointed.

    now there's one more activity that we will have to incorporate
    into our passions: we will now have to be on the look-out
    for dance performance.

    believe it or not, though dance is all around us,
    we were never interested in watching as much as we were in
    concerts or social dancing for that matter.

    in defference to your review, we sat through the clip,
    and can tell you that we ARE quite ready for a live performance.

    ya did good, you've made a convert.

    oh, as for Bobby, well YES, of course, luvitt! :-)


  14. Hey, great review. If you and your readers would like to read about another Cuban dancing in London, please check out my blog

  15. Era una provocacion Cuban! Una broma!
    Un abrazo!

  16. Hello there. Thank you for the recommendations on dancing event. Slightly remote oportunity to attend, when in Pakistan, but very enjoyable to read about.

    Best regards from Islamabad.

  17. Many thanks to you all for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  18. Beautiful dance performance. I loved the creative use of lighting. I will be forwarding this clip to my daughter who danced ballet from age four to fourteen.

    I agree with everyone that seeing the joy on the musician's faces is what makes this video so enthralling.

    Many years ago Bobby McFerrin performed his rendition of "The Wizard of Oz" for a fundraiser for a San Francisco public television station. Have you seen it? Here's the YouTube clip:

  19. Many thanks for that link, dutchbaby. That was fun to watch. Bobby is such a versatile artist that my only regret is that I have not got more albums by him at home.

    Greetings from London.

  20. The music in the videos was just the tonic I needed for a pick-me-up. Thank you, Cuban, for posting this.

  21. And thanks to you, Barbara for commenting.

    Greetings from London.



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