Rambert2 is Rambert contemporary dance company’s electrifying new ensemble of early career dancers. In this show, which launches Rambert2’s inaugural tour, the ensemble performs a mixed bill of three very different contemporary dance pieces; Grey Matter, choreographed by Rambert’s guest artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer, E2 7SD, choreographed by Rafael Bonachela, and Sharon Eyal’s Killer Pig. All three pieces explore different aspects of what it means to be human.
By far, the piece with the strongest and most thrilling narrative was Swan Pouffer’s Grey Matter; it is a revelation. Experiencing Grey Matter is like watching all 10 seasons of zombie apocalypse tv series, The Walking Dead, reading a philosophical treatise on ethics and running a marathon, all in 30 minutes. The piece explores the struggle to stay human and the tragedy of losing that humanity. It hints at hope but doesn’t spoon feed you a neat, reassuring ending. Grey Matter is one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking pieces of contemporary dance I have ever seen. It is worth the ticket price alone.
By contrast, E2 7SD by Rafael Bonachela is an empathetic meditation on gender, violence and coercion. Using only two dancers, it explores violence in intimate relationships and in the random acts of strangers. Until this piece, I hadn’t understood that dance could explore these issues in such a thorough, compassionate and uncompromising way.
The final piece on the bill is Killer Pig. This is the piece that demands the most from the audience; relentless and exhausting it is jam-packed with pop culture references that leaves no time for reflection. The harsh, unyielding references to the difference, disability, gender, and the gang mentality of human nature left much of the audience utterly spent.
The impact of this piece was heightened by the flesh coloured, minimalist costumes and Ori Lichtik’s uncompromising music. There are aching and disturbingly beautiful moments such as when we see the severely disabled struggling to live with dignity and purpose in an uncompromisingly conformist society. There are moments that explore gender fluidity, the nature of beauty, the human imperative to conform and there is even a flashed reference to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. This piece is filled with everything, thrown in your face, the whole time. Repose is fleeting. It is exhausting. And perhaps, that is the point. The struggle to live a life of dignity and compassion today is just that. And yet, I couldn’t help thinking that focussing on just one aspect would have had an even more lasting impact than the kitchen sink approach. Though, any editing of the piece would lessen its physical effect on the audience.
Perhaps, unfairly, I have left a commentary on the dancers to the end. These young dancers became the pieces. Their raw physicality coupled with an impressive maturity meant that ego was secondary to the art. Each of the 13 dancers that make up this ensemble earned their place through a gruelling selection process that attracted hundreds of dancers from around the world. These dancers are and deserve to be, the stars of the future.
Rambert2’s show is not for the faint-hearted. You will not be able to sit back and be spoon fed the show. Rambert 2 demands participation; it demands that you ask questions and will not provide you with any answers. At the end of the show, you will be exhausted, trembling and breathless. It is wonderful!
- Dance Theatre
- Choreographers: Benoit Swan Pouffer, Rafael Bonachela and Sharon Eyal
- Rambert2 is a new ensemble of the Rambert Dance Company.
- Dancers include Imogen Alvares, Salomé Pressac and Conor Kerrigan
- Venue: Oxford Playhouse
- Until the 8th of March, and then on tour, finished at Bristol’s Old Vic on Saturday 8 June 2019
- Running time: Approximately 2 hours including 20 minute interval.