Rambert Dance Company, Sadler's Wells Theatre, London

Excellent company

Nadine Meisner
Thursday 21 November 2002 01:00
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The programme chosen to mark the finale of Christopher Bruce's wise eight-year directorship of Rambert Dance Company was remarkably low-key. There was no retrospective of Bruce's choreography, no special gala titbits, just a normal selection containing one Bruce item, Grinning in Your Face, made last year.

But there is normal – and normal. Two pieces made the programme rather special: Wayne McGregor's new PreSentient and Jiri Kylian's Study from Blackbird. Dedicated to Christopher Bruce for "his passion, vision, creativity and above all his inspiration", PreSentient is an inspired piece. It continues McGregor's concern with extending human movement into a kind of alien neo-classicism. Angles are taken to extremes, body sections are isolated and every muscle fibre is mobilised. Miranda Lind dances a solo made high drama by the unfamiliar impulses zig-zagging through her body and the atmospheric music by Zoviet France. When the white rectangle behind her lifts, it reveals massed dancers behind and heralds the second section to the fascinating, dense sound-filaments of Steve Reich's Triple Quartet. The dancers match the music, dispersing and collecting busily like a hive, while Lucy Carter's lighting explodes like an electrical storm. The insect images, though, are contrasted with a series of wonderfully potent solos and duets that mark a new, almost emotional departure for McGregor. Paul Liburd combines the tensile power of coiled steel with the cushioned softness of a cat, one arm unfolding in strange concertina segments. He and Ana Lujan Sanchez move low on the floor side by side, while Attila Kun and Amy Hollingsworth freeze in their outlandish postures, their own duet momentarily suspended. McGregor's paces his piece perfectly, because the minutes seem to fly past and it all ends sooner than you expected.

Study from Blackbird turns the duet form into a whole epic – now erotic or tender, now uninvolved or aggressive. At first Angela Towler does most of the dancing, Liburd standing away from her, contemplating her, walking round her. When they do get together, their partnering explores issues of support and balance in the most unorthodox, intimate forms possible. Set against the traditional Georgian choral music, the quiet intensity of the dance seems quasi-religious, like a prayer to human relations.

Rambert's dancers are in particularly good shape and in Grinning in Your Face they do Bruce proud, even if Bruce has often used the same format of cameo dances to popular songs better and even if the setting of Forties rural America feels like a Bruce cliché. Another second-division effort is Siobhan Davies's brief Sounding, which opened the evening – no flop, because she is incapable of producing one, but one of her lesser pieces. There has been nothing lesser about Bruce's directorship. He leaves his successor Mark Baldwin with a fine company.

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