Rambert's dancers make great leap forward with move to £16.5m home in cultural quarter

The leading touring dance company is heading for a new home. By Louise Jury

So perhaps it is only proper that, nearly 80 years after the Warsaw-born ballerina established what is Britain's oldest dance company, it is finally about to set up home close to all three of these cultural icons.

After years in cramped accommodation in Chiswick, west London, the Rambert Dance Company has announced plans for a new £16.5m headquarters behind the National Theatre on Upper Ground in Lambeth, south London.

It will be in a cultural quarter that, apart from the National's three stages, includes the South Bank Centre and Tate Modern, and will be just across the river from the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and the Royal Ballet's home at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

In the new building, to be designed by the architectural firm of Allies and Morrison, even the two smaller rehearsal studios will be larger than the current spaces. And the main studio will be larger than that at Sadler's Wells dance theatre, also not far away across the river.

Although the Rambert will remain a touring company, this development means it will have space to nurture and present new work. Body conditioning and physiotherapy facilities will be built and be made available to Britain's 2012 Olympic team.

The site will be designed to continue and expand the ideas of Marie Rambert, who began presenting dance to the British public in 1926, five years before the Royal Ballet. Her aim was simple: to replicate the creative triangle of choreographer, composer and designer that had been at the core of the dance work of the Ballet Russes, led by Serge Diaghilev with whom she had worked in Paris before the war.

Fresh from a stint in Geneva studying eurhythmics, which associated music-learning with rhythmic movement, Diaghilev had engaged her in 1912 to help Vaslav Nijinsky with his radical choreography of Le Sacre du Printemps, set to the riot-inducing score of Igor Stravinsky.

When war broke out in 1914, Rambert emigrated to England and began by teaching eurhythmics to the children of smart society. Within a few years she had founded a ballet school and in 1926, her own company. Its first work, A Tragedy of Fashion, was choreographed by Frederick Ashton, then a 21-year-old dancer.

Ashton, who went on to become a founder of the Royal Ballet, was to be the first in a series of choreographers fostered by Ballet Rambert, including Antony Tudor, Christopher Bruce, Richard Alston, Michael Clark and Siobhan Davies. Several of them founded their own companies in turn. "I wasn't so much a mother as a midwife," Rambert herself said in 1976 of her nurturing talents.

Creating new work alongside preserving the old was a tenet of the Rambert faith. "We shall preserve old ballets and we shall create new works..." she declared in 1931. The company's mission was restated in 1966 as being: "To encourage the production of new works by both new and established choreographers; and to preserve as far as possible the master-works which constitute the Ballet Rambert's artistic heritage."

Yet, while the company has long taught classical ballet and modern dance, it is contemporary work for which it is now best known. "Ballet" was dropped from its formal title several years ago. Its ensemble of 22 dancers reaches more than 50,000 people a year in tours throughout the UK and overseas.

Demand for contemporary dance has risen 9 per cent a year for the past three years, according to Mark Baldwin, the company's artistic director, and the company is expanding to meet that demand. "As the UK's flagship touring modern-dance company, we have a responsibility to find new ways for audiences to experience dance," he said. "If this is the cultural heartland of creative Britain, creative London, it's a very powerful place for us to be ... We're not just a little conservatoire in Chiswick. We're in the middle of the city where people can visit us."

Coin Street Community Builders has donated the plot of land, worth £5m. The Arts Council of England, the London Development Agency and Rambert supporters have given £7m, leaving £9.5m to be raised. The company hopes to move into the new building in 2008.

Company stars

FREDERICK ASHTON

The most influential British choreographer of the 20th century, Ashton was one of Marie Rambert's earliest pupils. His choreography established both a permanent, recognisable English style and repertory for The Royal Ballet.

MICHAEL CLARK

Scottish-born Clark joined Rambert in 1979. By the age of 20 he was the resident choreographer at London's Riverside Studios. He then founded his own successful company.

SIOBHAN DAVIES

Found acclaim as an associate choreographer with the Rambert from 1988. Later establishing her own dance company.

CHRISTOPHER BRUCE

Joined Rambert in 1963, and was one of the last significant choreographers to have been personally nurtured by Marie Rambert.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas