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
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
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.

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea