Dance review: Rambert Dance Company

Rambert's current tour demonstrates respect and admiration of the past alongside new works
Rambert's current tour demonstrates respect and admiration of the past alongside new works
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Journey down into the basement of Rambert’s London headquarters, and you’ll find one of the most impressive archives any dance company has at its disposal. Photographs adorn the walls, video footage plays on a screen and a large temperature-controlled room is home to shoes, costumes, set models and even a lock of Marie Rambert’s hair.

Edinburgh Festival Theatre ****

It speaks of a company always moving forward, never standing still – choreographers, designers, musicians and dancers all coming together to create the kind of alchemy that has kept Rambert alive and kicking for 90 years.

You like to think that Marie Rambert herself would have given a firm nod of approval had she walked into the Festival Theatre this week. Not necessarily because she enjoyed the works (though she may well have done), but because the spirit of exploration and enquiry is as evident in the company’s repertoire now as it was when Rambert staged her first performance in 1926.

Yet what the current tour also demonstrates is a respect and admiration for the past; alongside new works created in the past 18 months, we were gifted a vintage piece from 1981. A more disparate triple bill would be hard to find, but each of the works brought a unique flavour to the table.

Macbeth was the starting point for Lucy Guerin’s Tomorrow, but using the piece as a study guide is most definitely not an option.

Shakespeare’s play comes out in hints and whispers, rather than loud cries – a little cryptic maybe, but in the spirit of the original, open to interpretation. And aesthetically, it’s a treat. A long rectangular light box lowers slowly from ceiling to floor, carving up the stage into two distinct spaces. On either side, the dancers turn Shakespeare’s themes into movement, in very different ways. Dressed entirely in black, half the performers use sharp gestures to suggest conflict, debate and the odd brush with brutality. Across the stage, in oatmeal coloured cloth, the “witches” jerk and swing with a compelling urgency. Did I understand it all? No. Did it matter. No.

Much the same could be said for Alexander Whitley’s cleverly constructed Frames, which attempts to capture some of the intangibility of dance.

Long, metal poles are clipped together to become ballet barres, door frames and abstract shapes, sometimes lit to glorious effect. Like Guerin, Whitley has created a work that engages the brain in a way that feels fresh and new.

So it was left to Christopher Bruce to talk to our hearts, and what a conversation we had. Ghost Dances may be 35 years old, but this tale of South American love and loss is still a precious jewel in Rambert’s crown.

Three ghostly figures weave their deathly presence through a group of villagers, picking them off one by one to the haunting sound of pan pipes. Emotive, beautifully crafted and filled with choreographic motifs that envelop us in a warm cloak of familiarity, Ghost Dances, like Bruce himself, remains a fundamental part of Rambert’s past, present and future.