Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Cardiff Dance Festival which explores the more cutting edge and challenging things happening in dance today.

Rambert 2 at Cardiff Dance Festival

Rambert 2 , Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama's Richard Burton theatre , November 21, 2019
Rambert 2 at Cardiff Dance Festival by  Rambert 2 The Rambert 2 performances at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama's Richard Burton theatre were probably one of the more conventional manifestations of contemporary dance at this third Cardiff Dance Festival which explores the more cutting edge and challenging things happening in dance today. It's a biennial, international event, increasing in popularity and reach each time it happens. This is the first time the Richard Burton Theatre has been included in the fest as a venue and it suited Rambert 2 company well. This outfit, which works alongside the main, venerated Rambert, provides a platform and a springboard for recently graduated dancers to enter the profession and gain their early performing experience.

Their programme was the standard three-different-dance-works with-an-interval structure, the first of evening being "Terms and Conditions", by Jermaine Maurice Spivey for six dancers, which had an un-finished feel to it, more suited to a choreographic platform as a work in progress. The restrictions, the enforced play and rituals, and the sense of the dancers being manipulated would have worked better in pure dance, rather than using words, lists or notes (on pieces of paper) and actual games (echoes of the 40 year old shenanigans of the Judson Church "new dance" movement of late 1970's New York, with their pedestrian tasks, games and movements performable by dancers and non dancers alike).

There were moments where something interesting and original began to happen: Shiny, featureless disks that were part of the dancers' costumes detached and worn as mirror-like masks as they moved in robotic unison, but the unison breaks and the masks only work front-on so this effect is quickly lost. Then, towards the end of the piece there's an interesting movement idea developed way too slowly - so slowly as to become predictable - the circle of dancers forming around one who falls or plays dead, face down, one arm and opposite leg extended, this dancer stands to be replaced by another and another and so on, gathering in speed as the circle moves ever faster, the dancers leaping and swirling as they fall into position, barely hitting the ground and leaping up to continue. But overall, the work was neither clear in meaning or intention and it somewhat failed the dancers by not using their considerable skills and training, or challenging them as performers.

Quite the reverse could be said of the next work, "Sin", a duet created by Damian Jalet and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, both unique performer-creators who defy definition, but if you've seen Larbi perform, you'll know that this work speaks his movement language through and through. A man and a woman dance, first separate, the man beginning solo and then joined by the woman to entwine in an extraordinary, sinuous and spaghetti like, kama sutra dance. Once together, they are locked, gripped between thighs and arms they seem to defy the laws of physical flexibility as they writhe and twist around each other. The duet has a savage beauty as the dancers manipulate and treat each other with both eroticism and violence. They are at first sexual lovers and then violators. The woman seeming almost to kill the man with her limpet-like, violent sensuality.

As the man began it, so the woman - once she has spent the man's erotic strength - finishes the dance. Just that, but fascinating to watch and beautifully performed by Cheng Peng and Melody Tamiz; beautifully lit (Adam Carrée) and with a compelling sound score (Patrizia Bovi, Gabriele Miracle, Mahabub Khan, Sattar Khan). Reading the programme notes afterwards I saw that, " 'Sin' explores the opposition between Eros and Thanatos...the toxicity that arises in couplehood...where one draws his vital energy from the other. The conclusion is found in the beginning, like a snake biting its tail". And there you have it, that is just what the choreographers told us as we watched their dance and so, when later I read the notes, I knew that their intention had been clearly executed in the work.

The evening closes with a rousing "Sama" by Andrea Miller, featuring eleven artists - almost the full company - and what beautiful young dancers these are, picked from 800 odd applicants from all over the world, their superb training, extraordinary physical flexibity, ethnic diversity and wide interpretive range here shown off to the full, they are challenged to the edge of their technique and creativity by Miller's work.

New York dance maker Andrea Miller's company, Gallim, is based in Brooklyn, but Miller is a multi award and fellowship winning artist who works between Europe and the USA, in visual art and fashion as well as in dance, including being the first ever choreographer-artist in residence at New York's metropolitan Museum of Art and choreographing for Hermés, Calvin Klein and Vogue. Her work is commissioned by the likes of Martha Graham Company, Alvin Ailey 2 and Ballet Bern, so she is accomplished but is also able to sit back and allow her dancers to fully participate in the creative process. She states that she learned this when she was pregnant and unable to move when making work for her dancers, a "letting go" that allowed her creation to gain "...more dimensions and complexity...(and be) more powerful because it was a shared experience".

Miller's "Sama" was specially comissioned for this new young company and has a kind of tongue-in-cheek, folksy feel: costume and lighting in earthy ochres, sound and music score (Vladimir Zaldwich, Frederic Despierre and Phil Gould) re-inforcing the "faux" ethnic feel, full of atmosphere and fast, dynamic, earthy rhythms. The performers work together as the piece develops, dancing with amazing eloquence and a tribal, animal abandon. There's a great section where two men transfer these qualities to their dance on stilts, doing such extreme things with their legs and torsos that you wonder how they can stay, centaur-like, on their hoof-stilts. There's a quirky little song at the beginning, sung by a graceful young woman as she moves forward balancing a sort of "water carrier's" pole, and an even quirkier one at the end (after the very South Asian flavour of the piece, something distinctly Latin?!), a sort of delicious Bolero to the moon, perhaps, mimed by a hip swaying dancer, again on stilts! For a moment we think this very enjoyable dance is going to go into a whole new phase, but here it ends, as tongue in cheek as it began. A work that needs no over-thinking, that leaves the audience invigorated and, above all, with the sense that these are dancers with great futures.

Cardiff Dance Festival continues until the 24th of November. Still to see are: Siriol Joyner’s Morfa Rhuddlan (Chapter, 20-23 Nov), Second Hand Dance’s Touch (Chapter, 22-23 Nov), Tereza Hradilková, Filip Míšek and Collective’s Swish (Dance House, 22-23 Nov), and Leah Marojević and Theo Clinkard’s The Elsewhen Series, (g39 and Chapter, 23 Nov and 24 Nov). See festival website:

Reviewed by: Jenny March

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