Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Rambert Home Studio with Wales Millennium Centre - A Live Streamed Premiére

Draw from Within

Rambert , Wales Millennium Centre , October 27, 2020
Draw from Within  by Rambert I feel as though I've just participated in a pioneering event, with all the excitement that can generate. The event was the digital streaming of real-time, live dance performance of "Draw from Within" by Wim Vandekeybus scheduled for Friday 25th September. However, as often happens in the early days of new digital platforms, there were teething problems.

The new, cross platform app, designed to deliver live content of very high quality to any device, crashed or rather the Rambert server was down, across the board, on that night as we all waited with baited breath for the performance to begin, emails and tweets flying back and forth as we attempted to connect. Rambert, apologizing profusely, worked to fix the problem and kept up-dating us via email and Twitter (including tweeting a photo of the poor dancers primed and waiting to start performing at their South Bank base!). But nothing doing, eventually they had to abandon the performance, promising an extra one the following night to which we were all invited.

As I lined everything up in eager anticipation to go at 8PM the next evening (Saturday 26th), I still had difficulty connecting. Eventually Rambert sent me a link that took me straight "in" but sadly, this additional wait meant that I missed the first minutes of the performance, coming in at a point where the dancers of this great and diverse company seemed slightly less comfortable with their material.

In a vast, dimly lit warehouse-like space they moved and emoted in an anguished way reminiscent of german expressionism, costumed in those drab, war-time colours. Thank goodness, this transitioned humorously into an ambiguous confrontation between one of the warehouse space men dancers and a woman in white silky shorts and shirt and definitely of this century. As they moved back into the vast, warehouse-like space, the focus of the dance had morphed into something quite different: the kind of work that made Vandekeybus famous, we used to call it "Eurocrash", the dancers letting rip so that the space seems to be filled with flying bodies, twisting in the air and then throwing themselves at the floor, whilst others begin pulling at bungee like ropes, leaning into the edges of the space, the chords cutting across it, making obstacles for the dancers to leap across and negotiate.

Again the confrontation, the white-dressed woman becoming the focal point of this criss-cross action, narrowing down to focus on her as she dances, caged in by crossing ropes. This whole scenario builds and at the same time the camera pans across to a wartime switch board operator, plugging and un-plugging connections as she speaks to her callers. At one point a number of men dancers hurl themselves at what appear to be beautifully rusted thunder sheets (those suspended lengths of thin metal used to make the sound of thunder in traditional theatre). Essentially, throwing themselves at the wall!

At another moment a woman "gives birth" to a male dancer who has cleaved to her, up-side down and facing inwards, so that his back looks like her pregnant belly. By this time the dancers have transformed again into microphone toting, press commentators, "Look she having baby!..." etc. Following the precocious progress of the fully grown "baby" as he zips around the space on a comically small child's tricycle and then gradually grows into a menacing, black kilted terrorist, threatening violence.

The dancers vocalise, charge around the space working as a kind of group animal, and draw or paint rapidly and boldly on the brown paper lined walls. Oh, and there's a child in the piece, a little girl of maybe nine years old who wanders in and out of the action with determined focus.

Then, there's a sudden change to an eerily silent and ominous place. We are on the corner of two corridors which go off diagonally into the distance, left and right. A woman stands at this corner, uncertain and frightend in her white night dress. There appear orderlies or doctors (including the little girl) in scrubs and masks who command the woman to lie on a camp bed and contort herself in various ways. There's a white bag, carried nonchalantly in by the "orderly/doctor", from which eventually (and predictably) a dancer emerges and joins the "inquisition". Nightmarish but darkly comical.

The dancers sometimes work with masks on, partly for effect and partly, I suspect, as part of their Covid safety measures when the dance might put them more at risk. Rambert tell us that all the dancers were tested before start of work and then they divided into six "bubbles" of four dancers, each bubble working in a different part of the building and remaining separate, connected by cameras during the whole process, so that they could all communicate and see each other at work.

The choreographer has extracted a total energy commitment from the Rambert dancers, who must also be actors, acrobats and magicians, drawing from inside themselves everything they have in store, this is what Vandekeybus' work is all about. Added to this is his experience as a film maker which clearly shows in the adept and exciting way this piece was filmed to livestream - a logistical feat.

Vandekeybus, together with Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker, Michele Ann De Mey, Alain Platel and Jan Fabre, broke all the rules back in the 1980's and 90's, putting European modern dance on top again and Brussels at the heart of the movement, since these artists are all Belgian as well as being total iconoclasts, and they changed the direction of contemporary dance forever.

But, here in September 2020 this is more like Eurocrash meets Pina Bausch in Covid 19 fuelled modern day paranoia, fear and anarchy. A thought provoking but exhausting watch!

See Rambert Home Studio and explore all the classes, interviews, shows and playlists they have on offer: https://www.rambert.org.uk


Reviewed by: Jenny March

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