Rambert: PreSentient; Rouge; In your rooms
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
**** (4 stars)
I was hoping for great things from this triple-bill from Rambert, but was disappointed: the dancers were extremely talented, but whatever message they were presenting didn’t get through to me. Most of the audience, however, seemed very appreciative and responded to each piece with enthusiastic applause and loud cheers.
Wayne McGregor’s 2002 PreSentient was danced to a lot of percussive, frenzied noise with a brief interlude of surprisingly lyrical string playing, while the dancers twisted themselves into extraordinarily sinuous contortions singly, in small groups or all together, with some quite amazing lifts. Occasional moments of stillness stood out in the near-constant movement. One dancer was left alone twirling on stage as the blackout fell. I really wasn’t sure what it was all about.
Marion Motin’s Rouge, first performed in 2019, began with the stage covered in ‘mist’ through which it gradually became possible to see the curled figures of dancers. A musician on stage played electric guitar, and another had his drum kit down in the pit. Seven dancers in an extraordinary jumble of clothes emerged from the mist and began synchronised falling-down-and-surging-straight-up-again, which was extremely impressive but quite rapidly became tedious. At some stage they flung off most of their clothes: they bounced up and down together; they lay down on the floor and moved their legs; much of their ensemble movement reminded me of the snatches of pop video I try to ignore at the gym.
The mist started pouring across the whole stage in waves, looking like the incoming tide. A long neon tube on the floor glowed blood red: another one further back and high up followed suit, and at different times made patterns of light across the stage. The dancers’ interactions became increasingly cruel and violent towards each other – at one point one dancer strangled another – and the guitar and drums mirrored their increasing fury, with a noise level way beyond my pain threshold. Things calmed down a bit, the dancers twitched and wiggled and tapped their bodies with their hands before a final frenzy was drowned in a merciful blackout.
At this point I was wondering whether I could face a third piece – but I’m glad I did. For me In your rooms was the most interesting piece of the evening, created by Choreographer and composer Hofesh Shechter and first seen in 2007. It mixed spoken word with a musical score played by onstage musicians and had a lighting score that made me think of Rembrandt as it mixed varying levels of light and shadow and surrounded everything with a mistiness that was more attractive than the harsh lighting of the previous works. In the overall darkness tiny snatches of movement or total stillness, unrelated to each other emerged and were instantly gone. The invisible commentator mused on the essential chaos of the universe, the tension between it and the order we try to impose, and wondered whether our use of an ever-increasing ocean of words is in order to replace our feelings. There was much chaotic, neurotic movement, both individually and collectively: it was only at the end that one couple reached out to each other and found something that enabled them to relate positively to each other and find some respite from the individuals’ internal chaos.
The dancing was, as I’ve said, extremely impressive, and the rest of the audience obviously thought all three pieces were superb. I simply couldn’t connect with anything in the first two pieces, and appreciated, but was not deeply moved by, the third piece. Much of the dancing seemed to me more like gymnastics than dance – but perhaps it was simply expressing emotions foreign to me in a language I simply don’t speak, and using a music that is equally alien. Next time I’ll check what music they’re using before booking to see the show…
Rambert: PreSentient; Rouge; In your rooms, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 22nd February for tickets go to: https://www.capitaltheatres.com/whats-on/rambert