Mation Motin is a French hip hop dancer and choreographer, best know to British audiences perhaps for shaping the very distinctive stage moves of Christina and the Queens. She has also choreographed for Madonna. Rouge is her first work for Rambert.
Commissioned by Rambert’s brand new artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer, Rouge relies on some of the devices of music videos. Striking chords from an electric guitar, amplified almost to the point of distortion, blare in the darkness. Gradual stage lighting (Judith Leray) reveals the dark figure of a top-hatted guitar player (Rúben Martinez) standing on the right-hand side of the stage.
Across the width of the stage, a dense bed of dry ice covers seven lying figures; as they stand up, only to fall down again, we see a demi-monde kitted out in colourful and bizarre costumes, variously a voluminous fur coat, a bright turquoise two piece suit, a long pink feather boa, a shabby red anorak.
From the orchestra pit the live band joins in, syncopated loud percussion dominating the accompanying strings in Micka Luna's bespoke score. A strip of light across the floor burns red, and the stage takes on the atmosphere of an underground dive, as the dancers get up, stay up and start divesting themselves of superfluous clothing, each taking on his or her own individuality.
As they start dancing and posturing, every jerky gesture is a challenge, charged with unnerving ferocity. Their couplings are aggressive, sticky and affectionless, their faces lack any expression except perhaps a grim determination.
Rouge, the programme notes tell you, is about ‘finding our real selves: our instinct and nature, rather than our culture.’ It is primarily an intensely atmospheric blend of post hip hop energy, commercial moves and contemporary dance, that first startles but gradually wins you over with its sheer originality and sense of spectacle.
The programme opens with an early Wayne McGregor piece, his 2002 PreSentient to music by Steve Reich.
Inspired by the premonitory tone of Reich’s Triple Quartet, PreSentient is a restless piece, relying on McGregor's trademark fast continuum of intricate movement, hyperextensions, and vertiginous partnering.
The programme ends with maverick choreographer Hofesh Shechter’s In Your Rooms to a booming soundtrack composed by Shechter himself and performed by a live band on a raised platform upstage.
It starts with Shechter’s own disembodied voice making lengthy philosophical considerations about the cosmos, the gist of which seems to be that it exists in the tension between chaos and order.
In Your Room is a fragmentary work which evolves on a stage enveloped in stygian gloom, where a murky spotlight shows a dancer or a group of dancers briefly contorting before darkness descends and the process is repeated again and again.
Its bitty nature, combined with the recurring disembodied voice showering us with cringe-making platitudes, make this an annoyingly self-indulgent, overlong work; though it has to be said the Rambert dancers acquitted themselves admirably, dominating Shechter’s characteristic language – much hunchestomping around on bent knees – with the same verve and versatility with which they had handled McGregor’s and Motin’s specific vocabularies.
The company is in fine form; and this programme clearly represents a statement of intent on the part of its new director to bring challenging new work into its established repertoire.
|What||Rambert, Triple Bill Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
14 May 19 – 18 May 19, 19:30 Sat mat 14:30 Dur.: 2 hours 20 mins inc two intervals
|Price||£15-£55 (+booking fee)|
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|