Bristol Old Vic

Ballet Rambert2

June 2019


They danced all night

A packed audience gave a standing ovation at Bristol Old Vic for Rambert2 – a stunning contemporary triple bill of cutting-edge dance by one of the world’s leading, iconic and independent companies.

Only 13 out of 800 applicant joined this offshoot of the 90-year-old Ballet Rambert to create this new troupe of trail-blazing dancers offering knockout techniques with verve and sass combined with unforgettable sets, costumes, music and lighting.

I took two teenage girls, neither of whom watch dance and they were blown away. So was I.

The athletic dancers appear as fleshed sculptures, bathed in eerie, pulsating lights, on stage sets that switch between a catwalk, a nightclub and dark dystopian landscapes, all injected with a raw sexuality and twisted bodies like living Egon Schiele expressionist paintings.

The first performance, Grey Matter, by Rambert’s artistic director, Benoit Swan Pouffer (what an incredible name), is about neuronal networks and how our brains control memory, speech and muscle control, so it said in the programme.

I had no idea and still don’t because I felt plunged into a whirling, swirling, leaping mass of dancers dressed in street-feel, papery costumes, with trousers split from ankle to thigh.

There’s chest-popping, hip-jutting, shoulder shaking and twisting to a quaking score by futuristic Brixton-born rapper Gaika. It is gripping. Faye Stoeser, gyrated and pumped and dropped, stretched and threaded her way through the troupe. An entire neural network alone.

Next on the bill was E2 7SD, which won the New York Bloomberg choice award. Spanish chorographer and Sydney Dance Company artistic director Rafael Bonachela has collaborated in the fields of classical, fashion, poetry, art, film and music, including Kylie Minogue, Tina Turner, The Kills and more. It shows and I loved this.

Artemis Stamouli and Max Day cling together as if in a dark, deserted city, with a sometimes haunting, sometimes pumped-up soundscape by Canadian sculptor Oswaldo Macia whose work is held in international collections including the Tate and Daros.

Finally, it was Killer Pig by Israeli choreographer, Sharon Eyal with creator, Gai Behar, was for me the most sculptural of performances with dancers in cream-coloured, stretchy costumes beautifully illuminated by Kevin A Jones whose worked in dance for 40 years.

There is aggression, even screaming, as dancers flow across the stage with a brash intensity and elegant swagger which stands out from the crowd but I hadn’t a clue what it was about. It felt disturbing and riveting.

Waiting outside to go home, some dancers wander past, and in track suits, one wearing shorts with beige socks pulled up over calves, these talented, super-strong Olympic-style athletes look small and vulnerable and sweet.

This is divinely, edgy contemporary dance so grab your fleeting chance to see one of the coolest, fiercest, bold and exhilarating 21st Century performances.


Melanie Greenwood

  • Tickets from £12 and performances last two hours starting at 7.30pm. Recommended age is 11+. For more information contact Bristol Old Vic Box Office or phone 0117 987 7877

PHOTOS: Conor Kerrigan and Aishwarya Raut © Foteini Christofilopoulou