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Rambert: A Linha Curva and Other Works

at Festival Theatre

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Britain’s longest established contemporary dance company excels itself.

Image of Rambert: A Linha Curva and Other Works
Photo: Hugo Glendinning

It’s rare that you hear an audience collectively gasp during a show at the Festival Theatre. But Rambert‘s audience does exactly this. You expect a pretty good show from Britain’s longest established contemporary dance company, but with this programme they’ve excelled themselves.

A Linha Curva features an incredible 24 dancers. Bursting with energy, colour and a sensuous curl of the lip, it’s twenty-five minutes of magic. Exploring the playful rivalry that exists between the sexes, the choreography is adventurous and acrobatic (hence the gasp), surprising—note the final pre-curtain exclamation from Daniel Davidson—and exhilarating. And this brilliant company execute it with apparent ease.

The piece is accompanied by an incredible soundtrack played by four percussionists, singing, clapping, chanting and playing a collection of 55 percussion instruments, and they create a pulsating, compelling rhythm that builds throughout. Choreographer Itzik Galili claims to have been inspired by the energy and excitement of São Paolo in this work. And it’s a technicoloured disco ball with pert and perky costumes by Sasha Keir, and a shifting landscape of light, orchestrated by Galili, that illuminates each dancer with surgical precision.

After the pulsing grace of A Linha Curva, Symbiosis is a jagged and disorderly shock. It probably helps to know that choreographer Andonis Foniadakis is exploring the continual collisions of people co-existing in a city alongside ever encroaching technology. The elegant set suggests the continual throb of energy where the eerily uniform costume design by Tassos Sofroniou highlights the anonymity of life in this city of the future. The score for this piece was composed by Ilan Eshkeri in collaboration with Foniadakis. Wind instruments, strings, a piano and percussion create a delicate and lyrical poem that bears the dancers along on a trembling breath.

Another ensemble work, it would be wrong to single out any particular dancer. The beauty of this piece lies in the carefully orchestrated chaos. Moments of a hopelessly human yearning for contact are interspersed with society: an uneasily symbiotic animal. Having said that, Miguel Altunaga moves like honey amidst the individuals jostling to stand out. Symbiosis is a lament for the technology that ought to bring us closer together, but somehow makes us disturbingly remote.

Then we have Goat. A slinky and seductive dessert. And a world premiere to boot. You can see all sorts of parallels in this piece if that’s your thing. A modern day Red Shoes set to a jazz soundtrack. A sinister witch hunt. A howl of protest in a society that is all too willing to turn its back. Or a playful, fun and funny, electrifying piece of dance.

Choreographer Ben Duke has created a work that is part theatre, part gig, part performance poetry as well as being unquestionably dance. He whisks us from a seething, simmering, synchronised strutting pack of dancers to a heart-breaking duet between Liam Francis and Hannah Rudd. “I don’t believe you can fight injustice with love,” declares Hannah as Miguel questions her about how she feels. And this might be Goat’s grimly pragmatic motif.

Set to a clutch of Nina Simone classics, arranged with care by pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam and performed with breathtaking soul by singer Nia Lynn, this is dance that grabs you by the shoulders, refuses to let you look away, and leaves you with a mischievous wink, wishing for more.